Tech addiction affects us in ways we don’t even realise… until it becomes a problem. Addiction is characterised as a recurring desire to continue doing or taking something despite the potential negative effects.
We’re all guilty of spending too much time online – albeit on our phones, computers or whatever device we can get our hands on. And it’s not hard to see why given that due to consumerism, we’re eager to get our hands on the next best thing in the technology market.
Whilst technology itself is convenient and offers many benefits to us individually and collectively – such as keeping us in loop with each other via social media and keeping us informed through various news outlets and media sources for entertainment, it’s very easy to lose ourselves when immersing into our screens. Which could lead to long-term effects related to screen addiction.
“Adults in the UK spend an average of six hours and 25 minutes on their phones, TVs and laptops each day during lockdown. Whereas 41% of parents of 12 to 15-year-olds find it hard to control their child’s screen time” – OFCOM
Humans as social beings have been proven to be reliant on human contact for both our emotional and physiological well-being. However as highlighted throughout the pandemic; what with the restrictions around physical proximity, many have been heavily reliant on the use of social media for online communication – with figures still on a significant rise.
NHS Digital reported that 95% of 11-19 year olds use social media and 89% use it every day.
“62% of polled UK adults saying they ‘hate’ how much time they spend on their phone” – Time To Log Off.
Tech-addiction poses both short-term and long-term risks. Key examples being –
Physical Strain on the Eyes – Spending long hours staring at a screen definitely takes its toll on your body, especially your eyes. Excessive screen time not only strains your eyes and leaves them feeling dry, but can also lead to retina damage and blurred vision.
OFCOM found that during lockdown people in the UK were spending around 40% of their time watching TV and online video.
“Out of 2,000 people surveyed, half used screens more since Covid struck and a third (38%) of those believed their eyesight had worsened, a survey suggested” – Fight for Sight
Lower Self-Esteem and Effects on Mental Health – Impaired Social Skills – We don’t have many real-life interactions when we are preoccupied with what’s happening on our screen. This could lead to increasing anti-social tendencies and feelings of withdrawal.
“Recent research has shown that screen time is negatively associated with social skills development in toddlers.
Specifically, the more time they spend with devices the more their social development suffers in the areas of relating and interacting with others and compliance with directions and ability to help others” – BMC Public Health
Delayed Learning in Children – When it comes to young children, the alteration of the brain’s structure due to excessive screen time can impact their learning abilities.
Letting children watch educational programs may not be the best way to educate them either – young children learn better by physically exploring, and letting them watch shows passively hinders their brains from being active and engaged.
“66% of 5-7-year-olds watch TV, play games and go online for 30 hours a week (over 4 hours a day)
81% 8-11-year-olds watch TV, play games and go online for 37.5 hours a week” – RCP
Spending too much time in the virtual world of screens can also have a negative impact on how you perceive yourself.
The time you lose that could have been spent on forming relationships with other people, discovering and honing your passions, and creating new experiences leads to a weakened sense of self-identity and confidence. When the bulk of your time is spent on social media sites, this problem is exacerbated because you may end up worrying more about your virtual self-image instead of your real one.
For children and youth, the dangers of cyberbullying and self-image issues are particularly worrying.
“27.3% of children (aged 11-19) felt they compare themselves to others on social media” – NHS Digital
“Teens who report the least in-person interaction and the most screen time have the highest rates of loneliness and depression” – SAGE Journal
“One in five girls between 11 and 19 have been bullied online in the past year” – NHS Digital
“16.7% of boys between 11 and 19 have been bullied online in the past year” – NHS Digital
There are plenty of resources to help with this issue. The Canadian Paediatric Society published some guidelines on recommended screen time for children.
- No screen time for children under 2 years old, with the exception of video calls with friends and family
- Less than an hour a day of routine screen time for children 2 to 5 years old
- Avoid any screen time for at least an hour before bed
- Stick to a routine for daily “screen-free” times in particular during meal time, homework, etc.
They also recommended the below steps on how to limit screen time for children:
1. Manage screen use:
- Make and regularly review or revise a Family Media Plan, including individualized time and content limits
- Continue to be present and engaged when screens are used and, whenever possible, co-view and talk about content with children and teens
- Discourage media multitasking, especially during homework
- Learn about parental controls and privacy settings
- Obtain their child’s or teen’s passwords and login information for devices and social media accounts, to help ensure safety online and to follow online profiles and activities if concerns arise
- Speak proactively with children and teens about acceptable and unacceptable online behaviours
2. Encourage meaningful screen use:
- Prioritize daily routines, such as interacting face-to-face, sleep, and physical activity over screen use
- Prioritize screen activities that are educational, active, or social over those that are passive or unsocial
- Help children and teens to choose developmentally appropriate content and to recognize problematic content or behaviours
- Be a part of their children’s media lives. For example, join in during video game play and ask about their experiences and encounters online
- Advocate for schools, child care centres and after-school programs to consider developing their own plan for digital literacy and screen use
3. Model healthy screen use:
- Encourage parents to review their own media habits, and plan time for alternative hobbies, outdoor play and activities
- Remind parents and adolescents of the dangers of texting or using headphones while driving, walking, jogging, or biking
- Encourage daily “screen-free” times, especially for family meals and socializing
- Ask whether screens are “off” when not in use, including background TVs
- Remind parents and teens to avoid screens at least 1 hour before bedtime and discourage recreational screen use in bedrooms
4. Monitor for signs of problematic use:
- Complaints about being bored or unhappy without access to technology
- Oppositional behaviour in response to screen time limits
- Screen use that interferes with sleep, school or face-to-face interactions
- Screen time that interferes with offline play, physical activities or socializing face-to-face
- Negative emotions following online interactions or video games or while texting
We currently live in a society where the duality of tech-use (gaming, social media, work, online classes) has become more prevalent but hopefully with routine and monitoring this doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be a healthy relationship for you and your family.
Posted on 31st Aug 2022 by Dan