by Abby Craton (Teacher Candidate – University of Manitoba)
Put simply, technology has revolutionized society. From the way we communicate with others, to the ways we can learn and access information, smartphones and other personal devices have entirely altered the way we, as humans, live. Though this comes with a multitude of obvious benefits for the economy, medicine, agriculture, business, education, and our social lives, there are many unintended consequences from the use of these tiny devices. Students need to understand the environmental, ethical, and social ramifications of their smartphones and personal devices, in order to be responsible citizens in the classroom, and in today’s world.
In the past decade, owning a smartphone has turned from an anomaly to a standard. Since 2007, when the first iPhone was released, over 7.1 billion smartphones have been produced and sold – a number almost as large as the population of the entire planet (Greenpeace International, 2017). By 2020, it is estimated that approximately 70% of the global population will have their own smartphone. However, the average individual only uses their smartphone for about two years, due to diminished battery life, unexpected damage, or social pressures to update to a newer model (Greenpeace International). This is having a massive impact on the planet, both in the energy required to continuously produce massive numbers of smartphones, and with the resulting waste that comes from their lack of reuse. Much of electronic waste, or e-waste, consists of metals and chemicals that are extremely damaging to the environment, and are having an effect on microscopic, plant, and animal life across the planet (Pulcu, 2015). According to a recent study by Mission-Blue, a charitable organization for ocean preservation, the number of dead zones in the ocean has increased 500-fold in the past 40 years, largely due to the presence of toxic chemicals from mobile industries’ waste (Pulcu, 2015). Combatting this issue is difficult, due to the huge social status that comes with having the latest smartphone.