Technology is wonderful!! I love the fact that I can sit anywhere and use my phone to research or buy something online. Or be able to chat with my husband (and actually see him!) with the push of a button on my phone. Technology is growing at such a rapid pace that it’s honestly hard to keep up with it (unless of course you’re in your teens/twenties and this is like second nature for you!).
However, I feel very fortunate to have grown up before the advent of everyday technology because I have the experience of knowing what it’s like to use typewriters, printing 1 page at a time on a dot matrix printer (which I calculated takes 1-2 minutes depending on the number of words on a page), and the dial-up sound of the internet. I say this simply because today’s society is so fixated on technology, that more commonplace and simpler items and activities are becoming less desirable.
I was in a doctor’s office the other day and on the tv (because it seems like we can’t ever escape the media) there was a program on where they were talking about a disturbing trend. The guest on the show was saying that there is a growing problem with people becoming engaged in too much screentime and that the younger generation in particular was more susceptible to developing an Internet/Screen Time addiction. I can’t recall the actual diagnosis that had been coined. However, it was something that was related to the increasing amount of time that people spend in front of their screens. I was shocked by this news and yet… I wasn’t. I myself am guilty of checking my phone every couple of minutes (for no good reason) and will do so if my phone is within easy reach. But I do realize that there is a time and place for that and have started to become more mindful of how much time I waste on screentime. There are countless issues now surrounding the increasing and alarming numbers of people who are becoming addicted to spending their time in front of their screens. But also the number of problems that arise and how these problems affect people in general.
Some of the issues that were discussed on the show were:
- an increasing lack in social skills
- the inability to communicate effectively with others
- decreased emotional maturity
As an OT, I am very troubled by this growing trend and these issues. I also want to add the following concerns:
- visual difficulties
- poorly developed skills (these skills are acquired through exploration of one’s environment)
- increasing stress
- decreased problem-solving skills (we learn from our interaction with others)
…to name just a few
Some might think that this is not too much of a concern and that why should we be even discussing this. However if you at these issues and how they impact an individual’s life it’s something we should be discussing and addressing. Here are some ways in which an excessive amount of screentime impacts a person:
- Poor social skills leads to a smaller social network (or even one at all!). We, as humans are social creatures and have a need to be able to effectively interact with others in our day to day lives. Several recent TedTalks have stated that longevity is associated with good social interaction/relationship with others.
- Many professions require some ability to interact with others. If one is unable to interact with a boss or coworker, it could lead to disciplinary action or loss of job.
- Spending all of our time online could affect one’s ability in their job (being late, not completing tasks, not showing up to work etc)
- This could also affect someone in school (not completing assignments, not going to class, not being able to graduate and get a job to support oneself etc)
- Not forming or not knowing how to form a close relationship with someone
- Visual problems leading to eye strain, needing glasses, headaches/migraines etc
- Not having the necessary skills to be able to function at school, work etc. There is a growing trend of students who do have the necessary skills to be successful at school (ex handwriting due to poor fine motor and other skills)
- The list goes on…
As I mentioned before, technology is amazing and we are so fortunate to be able to use it for our own success. However, children should be monitored for the amount of time that is spent online or in front of a screen. Adults too, should be aware and mindful of the amount of screentime that they spend on a daily basis. Setting a timer for a designated period of time is a simple and effective way to monitor screentime. There are plenty of apps out there that do something similar.
There is an incredible world out there. Spending an excessive amount of your time in front of a screen not only negatively affects you physically, mentally, and emotionally, but it prevents you from enjoying the world, its beauty, and social interactions with others.