From self-driving cars to controlling the lights in your house through your phone, technology has come a long way in providing us countless solutions to make our lives easier and better. Most of our interactions with technology now are through a touchscreen, which is why we are having more screens in our houses. The average US household has around 7.5 screens, allowing us to consume more information and entertainment than ever before. In addition, other forms of technology, such as the rise of social media, have increased online communication and have made it easy to post pictures and talk with your friends.
The increase of smartphones and tablets has given us the power of computers in the palm of our hands. Modern-day technology is showing how the future will look like with improved innovations and new developments. However, as our use and dependence on technology, including social media, increases, we are seeing a trend of our generation having a form of digital addiction. Due to the new technology and how exciting and addicting it is, kids are spending more and more time on their devices, and it’s negatively impacting their mental health. We need to educate the youth and make sure that we can help them not become obsessed with their online lives.
It’s no surprise that today most adults use their phones or their computers a lot more than they should. A surprising number of kids, however, are also using their devices more. The question is, why are they attracted to their laptops and social media so much? The simple answer: it’s exciting. Real-life simply moves too slowly for most kids, so just going online to watch something new is a lot faster and easier. Don’t want to wait a week for a new episode of the show on TV? That’s ok, just stream the whole season on your laptop. Friends are busy and you don’t want to wait to play with them? Don’t worry about it, you can play for hours online with other players. On Instagram’s and Twitter’s Explore pages, you can simply refresh and a new load of content is at your fingertips, keeping you engaged online. Tired parents are just giving their kids an iPad when they are crying so that the kid is engaged. Growing up with the response for crying with a device creates a new divide between the parents and child, one where the child interacts more with a lifeless screen than its parents.
Notifications, which are designed to capture your attention and distract you, can reduce productivity and can lead to problems where you’re just checking your phone because you think there is a notification. They pile on, adding hundreds of hours a year of wasted time and lost productivity. Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, had in development an Instagram for kids because so many 12-year-old children were on the original app. Despite the backlash, Facebook is still pushing the idea, which raises the question of why Facebook had to have this idea in the first place: are there too many under-13 kids using social media already? Apps and phones are now being designed to keep the user online, with the sole purpose of keeping your eyes on the screen to see the advertisements.
Social media, with its easy use on phones and convenience, has a lot of consequences and can do plenty of harm, even if we can’t see it. Mental health is often disregarded as not serious and just simple emotions that come and pass. However, high levels of stress and anxiety are indications that someone might be suffering from something. Today’s generation is experiencing these mental issues through the growth of social media. What we see on the internet can affect us on many levels. Body dysmorphia, a disorder in which one is obsessed with the perceived flaw of their appearance, can be highly aggravated when you see a model with a “perfect” body figure.
For girls, especially, this constant focus on trying to make your body better for others can be mentally damaging as well as physically damaging, as you might starve yourself to lose weight or have depression. The fear of missing out, known as FOMO, is the anxiety felt that others are having fun without you, and it can also be aggravated if you see online pictures of the fun things people are doing. Humans, since the dawn of time, have always been social animals. We seek face-to-face interactions because then we can connect with them meaningfully.
As a student, I can tell you that I would love to have that human interaction and go back to school again to see all my friends. However, social media can do just about the opposite. While it can promote communication and can help you talk to people all over the world, multiple studies, including from the University of Pennsylvania, show that high social media usage increases feelings of loneliness. It’s always better to connect with your friends and loved ones by visiting them since you get to personally be with them and it can help builds better relationships. Almost 10% of teens report that they are cyberbullied and called names online, and having to see those hurtful rumors and lies about you can be very upsetting and painful. Despite all of this, social media usage has increased and its convivence gives a lot of people something to do on their phones whenever they are bored. This is only a part of a vicious cycle that can leave emotional scars that can last for a very long time. The internet can be a cruel and nasty place, and almost everyone involved is hurt one way or another.
As a teenager myself, I know that at times I feel like I use my phone too much, and looking at the screen time at the end of the week only embarrasses me. However, I also know that there are steps that we can take to fight this addiction. As the COVID-19 pandemic comes towards the end and life returns to normal, we have to make sure that we can also return safely to our meetups and interactions. While the pandemic has shown the lengths that technology has been able to bring us together, mental health issues were a big problem and it’s clear that humans need to be together and not isolated.
Going out and seeing friends is a great start to staying off the internet. You can set goals for yourself, it’s effective if you have an environment and a community that can help you reach your goals. We need to have real solutions to the problems we face today, and a good place to start would be to have designated areas around the community where phones and other devices shouldn’t be allowed for kids. School is the best place to test this idea, where we could take student’s phones and not have the phones on them during class. Obviously, with the dependence on phones for communication, we’ll need to establish some exceptions, but if students and kids have their phones everywhere they go, how will they learn to not use them all the time?
Several school districts around the world and in the US have placed similar policies for their students, and the results show that distractions are reduced and students can turn in their work on time. Kids don’t have the strength to control themselves all the time, and the temptation of a phone will lure them, so using strict measures will be one of the only ways kids can keep kids focused and not addicted.
Digital addiction is slowly becoming an issue that is affecting everyone, but our generation is getting hit the most, so it is up to us to try and fix the problem. Recognizing that we have a problem is the first step; working on solving it is the next. The new technology of the future is good, and in our schools, we implement new forms to get educated better. Even so, we need to make sure that we remain in the driver’s seat and that our phones don’t control us, which is why putting firm rules in place is required.
– Views From A Teenage Boy Living In the US