Monday 21 October 2019

Smartphone diary of a teenage girl: ‘I try to come off at 9.30pm to have some time to calm my brain down’

Do teens really need their devices? Aoife Meates (16) keeps track of 24 hours in the online life of a typical adolescent

Left to her own device: Aoife Meates uses her phone for many aspects in her life including
watching Netflix, texting friends and the alarm. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Left to her own device: Aoife Meates uses her phone for many aspects in her life including watching Netflix, texting friends and the alarm. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Aoife Meates was 13 when she got her first smartphone. The teenager from Ranelagh in Dublin was asking for one because she wanted to be "on the same page" as her friends. Her phone plays a huge role in her life, from waking her in the morning with an alarm call to keeping her connected with her friends. She uses it for homework, listening to music and watching YouTube videos for make-up tips.

Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are her main ways of communicating with friends and Aoife's mum, Marion Keogh, says her kids rarely use their phones as an actual 'phone' except when she calls them. A busy mum who runs her own business as a garden designer as well as organising the annual Bloom Fringe Festival in Dublin, Marion says she herself is an avid user of social media for her work and her other children, sons Seán (18) and Fionn (13), also have smartphones.

She says rather than impose strict rules around their smartphone use, she and her husband Alan talk to their children about everything so when they encounter things in the online world, they are more prepared for it.

"As parents, you have to be unflappable, strong and communicate with them. You have to keep talking even when they don't want you to. Everything has to be talked about. Nothing is off limits. If you reason with them and respect them, they'll do the same." Marion believes parents can't bury their heads in the sand and say they're not up to date with the online world. She says parents have got to be tech-savvy to know the territory their children are exploring.

We asked Aoife to keep a diary of her smartphone use - and these are the results...


I woke up and checked my phone for any notifications. I responded to a couple of texts from friends. One friend was telling me how she couldn't meet up until 3.30pm that afternoon instead of 1.30pm. I said it was okay and I didn't mind. This sort of thing happens all the time, people just get busy. I usually wouldn't have full conversations with my friends on text in the morning because we're all too tired.

When I was done with that, I scrolled through Instagram for a while. I liked a few of my friend's posts, they're mostly pictures of them hanging out. I commented on a couple of them, telling them they looked great. Most of the people I follow are my friends, but I also follow a few celebrities like a couple of the Kardashians and one or two models. I really like the model Gigi Hadid. The pictures she posts are gorgeous and she's also just gorgeous. I follow some accounts that post short funny videos from around the internet.

I usually wouldn't share anything on Instagram with my friends unless I know they'll love it. I don't post that much - if I see a picture of a beautiful sunset or my dog did something really cute, I might post that. My friends and I follow the same things and we like the same music. We share all the things we like with one another.

8.30 am

I listen to music while brushing my teeth. I use Apple Music but I used to have Spotify and, honestly, I think it's much better. There's loads of playlists made by the staff that you can listen to and find new music really easy, but they don't do the same on Apple Music. I just use it because I forgot my Spotify password. I put my rap playlist on shuffle because I always find it wakes me up really well in the morning. I have four or five different playlists: one for chilling out - music like Ed Sheeran and comforting music, one for the gym, a rap playlist, and one that has jazz. I like all kinds of music from Kendrick Lamar to the Arctic Monkeys.


I watched make-up tutorials on YouTube for half an hour. I feel that even though I'm not doing anything productive when I watch them, I'm still learning something so I don't really feel that guilty. Nikkie Tutorials are great. I don't really follow brands but she does really good tutorials and she's really funny. If I'm wondering how I should do my make-up, I just watch her.


I talked to my friend Hannah on Snapchat for a while about her recent break-up. We talked for about 20 minutes, probably sending 15 messages each. All my friends use Snapchat because it's free and the messages are all deleted after they've been read unless you save them, which is really handy. No one really uses WhatsApp to talk to their friends, but I know a lot of people use Facebook Messenger. I'm in a couple of group chats on it with the girls in my year and another with just my class, which is a really great way to figure out class trips, homework and things like that. We're not allowed the phone in school, but sometimes if I need to text my mum, that's okay. Nobody would really have their phone out in school. It's too risky.


I started watching a new series on Netflix but only watched two episodes. It was called The Good Place and I definitely recommend it. It's probably one of the best things I've watched on Netflix. I don't tend to watch a lot of movies on Netflix but I love a really good series. Sometimes I connect my phone to the TV and watch it there, but if I can't, I'll just watch it on my phone, which is what I did today. I would still rather talk to my friends for half an hour than watch an episode of something.


I was added to a group chat on Snapchat to organise a table quiz with my friends. We figured out when and where it was on and who could and couldn't go. About 20 people were added but a lot of people that couldn't make it left.


Got a text from my mum telling me to turn the oven on.


Got a call from my dad telling me to turn the oven on.


I scrolled through Instagram and looked at posts from my friends. I commented on a few of my friends' pictures saying they looked really good and responded to Snapchat texts. I didn't really talk with anyone - I just sent blank pictures of the wall beside me to everyone, to keep our streak going. I put Taylor Swift's new album on and listened to that for a while.

When I talk to my friends on Snapchat, we might be talking about some brownies we made or organising meeting up. We might talk about a teacher or homework or when the next test is. If I needed to talk to my friends about something that was bothering me, I'd wait till I saw them face to face. It's better to talk about things like that in person.

I try not to stay on the phone too long. If I want to be asleep by 10pm, I try to come off at 9.30pm to have some time to calm my brain down. Sometimes I lose track of time and I could be on it till 10.30pm or 11pm, but not too often. I put the 'do not disturb' setting on and set my alarm for 6.45am. I like a lot of time in the morning.

In conversation with Kathy Donaghy

Irish Independent

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