(Herald & Review (Decatur, IL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 16--DECATUR -- Jada Simmons has a whole collection of cases for her cellphone.
"I never spend more than $5," said the junior at Eisenhower High School. "My boyfriend and my mom give them to me for presents."
The point of having so many cases is that her phone is such a constant companion that she wants it to reflect her mood, or match her outfit, on any given day. She calls it "her baby."
"I get on social networks like Twitter and Instagram and, sometimes, Facebook," Simmons said. "(Facebook) isn't as much for me, because I'm always on Twitter. You can Tweet as much as you want to, and nobody'll be like, 'Oh, shut up.' "
Teens grew up with cellphones and social media, and to them it's natural to keep in touch and share with friends that way. With smartphones, they always have a computer, a camera, a phone, a planner and their music in their pocket.
"Instead of us going to the news or getting the announcements from the school anymore, you can go right on Facebook," said Olamide Amure, who's also a junior at Eisenhower. "Three seconds later, they're telling you when there's a school closing or something. And I feel you can get more news off Facebook than the way Facebook was originally created, to make friendships and connect with your family members."
With a chuckle, he added, "Facebook's where you can go for all the drama."
They laughed about it, but both said they know people who not only argue on Facebook but upload videos, which can go viral if their friends share with their friends, who share with their friends.
Though teens say they still spend time face-to-face with friends, their phones -- not their computers, because most of them prefer their smartphones -- allow them to be in constant touch, no matter where they are.
And they don't think it's too much to be constantly available.
They do realize that they have to be aware that what they post now could follow them for years.
"When they go to college or get a job, it's all on the Internet," Simmons said.
Phones can be useful, even at school, said Debbie Alexander, an assistant principal at MacArthur High School. Teachers have "dummy" email addresses and can send their students assignments or answer questions. On the recent run of snow days, teachers could send messages to students at home so they could keep up with their work.
"A student sent me a text about a scheduling question," Alexander said. "Instead of calling or emailing, she sent me a text."
Morgan Malone, a senior at MacArthur, said she has one teacher who encourages students to use their camera function to take photos of notes on the board, to ensure they don't miss something crucial, which is far more convenient than trying to write it all down by hand.
Cellphones are forbidden at the dinner table, however, Malone said.
"We still talk about our day," she said. "(My phone) helps me to keep in touch with people because I have friends and family who are all over the country, and it's a lot easier to keep in touch with them (with it)."
When she's with good friends, she isn't tempted to look at her phone instead of talking to them, but the phone can be a handy distraction if she finds herself in an awkward situation.
Colleges have also taken to sending and receiving applications by email, said junior Keyana Thompson, which she finds much easier -- and more environmentally sound -- than filling out bulky paper applications.
"I can email back and forth with colleges and always stay in touch," Thompson said. "My phone's more my computer than my actual computer."
Eldon Potts' smartphone is such a constant companion that he'd be lost without it, he said. He does use it to make phone calls, but those are to his parents and grandparents, not his friends.
"I probably use my phone more for Internet and email than for texting or calling people," the junior at MacArthur said. "You can use it wherever you are.
"If you have a question, instead of using a dictionary, you can type in a word in Google, and it'll pop up. It just makes everything quite a bit easier."
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