It is not far-fetched to say that over the last few decades the world has changed dramatically for our youth. Today’s youth is living in an era where they have every form of information and pleasure at the touch of their fingertips. From the Internet being an informational highway, to acting as our current shopping mall, to providing all forms of entertainment these things are all available to our children and adolescents through small devices that can be taking with them anywhere. Even schools are working to move from paper-based learning to electronic tablets and computers to take tests, submit homework, and read books. So it is important to ask the question, “how many hours a day are our children using devices and is there any link to the on-going growth of illnesses, behavioral patterns, depression, and health risks? If so, what can we do to combat this for our children?
There is no question that today’s technology has made our lives so much simpler. What used to take us hour of researching information at the libraries and reading through countless books and magazines is now accessible with just a push of a button. We don’t even have to leave the comforts of our home. We can instantly find recipes, do research papers, and connect with those we know and love. Technology has made life much more easy. We have instant access to music, videos, games, and information. The truth is that we are living in a day where access to all forms of pleasure, knowledge, and opportunities are readily available and fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of the opportunities that we have been given? After all… isn’t this why scientists created the devices that we all used today?
Most parents will confess to pacifying their child by allowing them to play on a device or watch TV so that they may have a moment to themselves. However… there may be large prices to pay for those few moments of tranquility. A child needs constant supervision, direction, and guidance in the choices that they make. The Internet does not have a built-in parent to teach children morals, values, or good decision-making. The Internet will supply equal amount of information to whoever types those few choice words into the search engine… regardless of age, gender, or whoever it may be. The Internet will not discriminate to what it shows to anyone. Though a device will entertain your child, it does not substitute for the lessons that the child needs to learn. Psychoanalytical theorist, Harry Stack Sullivan stated that a parent’s interaction with a child was of key importance and a sturdy relational base from which trust, empathy, optimism, and resilience can grow. When a child is exposed to adult based media culture before they are neurological and emotionally matures, it sexualizes perceptions of girls and women and encourages aggression in boys Kids need a time of innocence in order to develop a sense of core value and optimism, trust, curiosity, and the desire to learn. Messages of how we should treat one another and how we should socially interact with one another should stem from the family and not from Internet videos or the like. Even though most parents hate to reject their child’s desire for fun, it is important that the parent looks beyond the immediate desire of the child and makes choices that are going to benefit the children long-term. Though their child might fight change at first, with time they shall become accustomed to the changes and be able to function and find enjoyment in other areas. It was also recommended that parents themselves lead by example and exclude excessive screen time. The Nunez 3Bible tells us in Galatians 5 that God has given his followers the Fruit of the Spirit…the last of these fruits being self –control. Children are constantly looking at what parents are doing and notice when a parent directs the child to do one thing but they themselves are doing another. It is important that the parents set aside time to play, interact, and teach their child/children.
Screen Time Addictions, Depression, and Behaviors
Studies have shown that screen time in youth can lead to Internet Addictions. Out of a questionnaire with 1319 respondents 18 identified as Internet Addicts (AI). When they were tested against those who were not addicted, those that were addicted showed that they were in the moderate–to-severely depressed range, where the non-addictive group was firmly in the non-depressed range. It was also shown that it was young people that were more likely to show addictive symptoms than were older people. Also those that were in the IA group engaged significantly more in sexually gratifying websites, gaming websites, and online community chat websites, the conclusion was that the IA were emerging as a construct that must be taken seriously. It also showed that those who had Internet addictive symptoms we’re more likely to engage on sites that replace normal social activity, meaning that there is less interaction with real people, which lead to more depression. So the more time they spent on the Internet, the more they became addicted. The more they became addicted, the less they interacted with real-life relationships and the more depressed they became.
Sleep disturbance linked to behavioral issues
Other research also showed that youth, regardless of which developmental stage they were in, who had higher amounts of screen time were more susceptible to sleep disturbances. These sleep disturbances were linked to higher levels of youth behavioral problems. So children who have more screen time are more likely to have poorer sleep quality, and in return had more problems with their behavior. It was not the quality of activities that they were participating in that deprived their sleep, only higher amounts of time on their devices.
There is no denying that electronic and smart devices are progressing and becoming a bigger part of our lives. It would be very difficult to live a life without these devices. Even our schools and churches are using technology in order to connect and teach their audiences. So as a society we must ask, “how can we still reap the benefits of technology and still produce healthy children and adolescence?” Wisely and accordingly! Proverbs 25:16 says, “Have you found honey? Eat only what you need. That you not have it in excess and vomit it.” This wise information reminds us that too much of a good thing will make us sick and though something good and beneficial may be at our disposal, over consumption can make us sick. The same applies to screen time. Going through an Internet fast may allow a parent to see just how much dependency their family has on devices. It may also help them to decide just how much time they really do need with their devices, if any at all. After fasting for a period of time, devices can then be reintroduced in moderations. Omitting it from our lives may be impossible, but using the right amount in the right way can be helpful, educational, and entertaining.