Every parent is concerned about their teen’s media use. The average teenager (13-18 years old) spends almost six hours and 40 minutes a day on screen media!1)https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/census_researchreport.pdf
There’s been a lot of discussion about how our devices affect our lives. Some research finds our smartphones isolate; other research finds the opposite to be true.2)https://www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2017/08/tech-cell-phones-isolate-teens-scientist-says.html?page=all When internet or device use begins to take “precedence over other life interests”, then addiction may be the cause.3)https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42541404
First Child Diagnosed with Internet Addiction in UK
UK’s National Health System (NHS) has diagnosed the first child ever with internet addiction. In particular, the 15-year-old has an internet gaming addiction. 4)https://www.childrenandnature.org/2018/06/14/uks-nhs-diagnoses-first-child-with-internet-addiction/?mc_cid=edabc7f352&mc_eid=1ef18cf947 The Telegraph describes:
Her son was a talented sportsman, captaining his county rugby and cricket teams, as well as being highly sociable and academically able, having secured a place in the stream for gifted pupils when he joined secondary school.
It was then, however, his addiction with gaming started to take hold, turning him into a recluse in his own home. “Every moment he’s awake, he wants to be on a game. There is no outside world. It has become all-consuming,” said Miss Parmar, who co-founded Untapped AI which supports people online in work and at home.
“I knew it was addictive [at the beginning] when he was online instead of doing his homework. He started to be an addict and avoided the real world.
“He has great mates [in other gamers online] and he is having fun running virtual worlds and non-existent kingdoms but it’s not real. It’s become so real that there’s nothing outside it anymore.”
This diagnosis from the NHS means the family does not need to seek expensive private therapy. In fact, 4% of teens are at risk for internet addiction according to the Telegraph. The risk is 8.2% for the general population (Europe and America) according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), though there is a lack of standardization. 5)https://www.psycom.net/iadcriteria.html
Dr. Richard Graham of London’s Nightingale Hospital looks for the following signs of digital addiction:
Is it affecting basic things such as sleep, eating, socialising and education?
Is the addiction taking up neurological real-estate, dominating thinking and preoccupation?6)https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42541404
Experts agree you can not simply look at how much time a child spends on the internet/smartphone to determine if there is addictive or detrimental behavior, yet some countries have enacted laws aimed to reduce screen time. For example, South Korea bans internet gaming access to children under 16 between the hours of midnight and 6:00 AM. China and Japan have similar laws.
The Effects of Smartphones on Our Thinking
Although gaming addiction is rather specific, smartphones dominate much more of our time across the population. We no longer just stand in line and chat with the person next to us. Many reach for the phone at any idle moment like a stop light or road construction. We no longer leave space for our thoughts. It’s often the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing before bed.
These devices are changing the way we think. NBC News explains:
Now, constant connection to the Internet via smartphones and laptops has changed long-established rhythms of human thinking. There used to be times when we were socializing and learning from the people and the world around us and times when we were alone with our thoughts.
“But it becomes much much harder to practice the attentive types of thinking — contemplative thought, reflective thought, introspective thought,” Carr says. “That means it’s very hard to translate information into rich, highly connected memories that ultimately make us smart and intelligent.”7)https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/the-big-questions/your-smartphone-may-actually-be-changing-human-race-n743866
How is this affecting our teens?
When the current generation of teenagers socializes together, they are often on their phones. They may be physically present, but they are isolated from one another by their devices. This affects their ability to empathize and relate to one another. NBC News explains:
One 2014 study followed 51 kids who spent five days at an outdoors camp — no phones or laptops allowed. After time away from technology, the children were better able to read facial expressions and identify the emotions of actors in videos they were shown, compared with a control group of kids who didn’t attend the camp.
Less interaction with technology allows us to focus on conversations and interactions with others instead of trying to fulfill cravings for finding new information via smartphones and other devices.8)https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/the-big-questions/your-smartphone-may-actually-be-changing-human-race-n743866
Technology does help us connect when used appropriately and moderately.
How have these smartphone devices altered the teen years?
Jean M. Twenge writes in The Atlantic “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”:
The more I pored over yearly surveys of teen attitudes and behaviors, and the more I talked with young people like Athena, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.
The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone…
Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.
Even when a seismic event—a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud—plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy…
In this, too, she is typical. The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015; the decline has been especially steep recently. It’s not only a matter of fewer kids partying; fewer kids are spending time simply hanging out. That’s something most teens used to do: nerds and jocks, poor kids and rich kids, C students and A students. The roller rink, the basketball court, the town pool, the local necking spot—they’ve all been replaced by virtual spaces accessed through apps and the web…
You might expect that teens spend so much time in these new spaces because it makes them happy, but most data suggest that it does not. The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and designed to be nationally representative, has asked 12th-graders more than 1,000 questions every year since 1975 and queried eighth- and 10th-graders since 1991. The survey asks teens how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities, including nonscreen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise, and, in recent years, screen activities such as using social media, texting, and browsing the web. The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy…
So is depression. Once again, the effect of screen activities is unmistakable: The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly.
Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan. (That’s much more than the risk related to, say, watching TV.) One piece of data that indirectly but stunningly captures kids’ growing isolation, for good and for bad: Since 2007, the homicide rate among teens has declined, but the suicide rate has increased. As teens have started spending less time together, they have become less likely to kill one another, and more likely to kill themselves. In 2011, for the first time in 24 years, the teen suicide rate was higher than the teen homicide rate.9)https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/
Even when addiction is not present, mental health issues can arise from our dependence on smartphones and technology. The teenagers of today are the first ones to grow up with smartphones and the internet from birth. They prefer texting over phone calls. Today’s teens are showing the effects.
Our smartphones are tools of communication, yet they cannot replace authentic human contact.
natureaddict / Pixabay
References [ + ]