“Device addiction is as likely a symptom of anxiety as a cause.” Every teenager seems to have a device that is at their disposal any time of night or day. It can help you to always be connected on your own terms with whomever you want to be, and feel you have established your own independence.
“But this may really be only an uncertain independence, many having been raised under the whirring of helicopter parents, over-involved and trying to fix every problem for their children. This suffocates independence at a time when teenagers should be exploring autonomy, limits the development of self-reliance and grit and may even directly produce anxiety and depression . . .
Yes, we should devote resources to making smartphones less addictive, but we should devote even more resources to address the public health crisis of anxiety that is causing teenagers so much suffering and driving them to seek relief in the ultimate escape machines (NY Times, 7/15/18).”
Digital tools can enrich, but is there a downside to too much screen time? Some pediatricians and parents are now raising concerns about the classroom laptops, tablets and apps, partly because school districts are adopting digital tools in droves.
Last year, primary and secondary schools in the United States spent $5.4 billion on 12.4 million laptop and tablet computers, according to International Data Corporation, a market research firm known as IDC. “The concern is that many programs students use in school are entertainment and gamified,” said Dr. Scott Krugman, a pediatrician in Baltimore County, who supported recently proposed state legislation that would develop optimum health and safety practices for the use of digital devices in schools. “We felt these are things that should be tracked and monitored.”
Baltimore County Schools also recommended that students take activity breaks from computer tasks every 20 minutes and leave their devices inside during recess. They may even have to play and talk with each other. Hmmm, old school, I guess?
Now who doesn’t know that? But unfortunately many parents seem to feel that unrestricted or unlimited computer/internet time is part of a child’s life in the digital world. It doesn’t have to be that way say many leading clinical psychologists. It is interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction.
Perhaps most discouragingly, heavy use of electronic media can have significant negative effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance. This “overexposure,” particularly with regard to simulated violence, common in many popular video games, can result in children acting more violently themselves and less likely to behave emphatically in a more positive way.
Less screen time, more interpersonal activity with peers, family, care-givers seems to be the best antidote. This does not mean we have to take away all the digital devices and toys. We should just ensure that spending time with peers and caring adults does not suffer.