The average American teenager
The average American teenager spends around 9 hours day staring at their screens, according to a study done by Common Sense. Include the time spent on screens at school or for homework. Screen time is becoming a larger controversy than it ever has been before. The rising interest in this topic comes from the fact that technology is advancing faster than it ever has before. While these advancements are amazing and have improved our society by incredible amounts, there are many signs that point to too much screen time can have harmful effects. Screens themselves can be incredible but how we are using it has turned screen time in into an issue. Screen time is a problem due to causing addiction, sleep problems, and dividing families.
The first consequence of too much screen time is that it can cause problems with attention and even addiction. Many people find it hard to not quickly glance at a new notification or scroll through Instagram in their free time. The number of people with attention disorders, specifically ADHD, is 10 times more than it was 20 years ago (Voss, Meagen). These types of screen driven attention disorders are often driven from screen addiction. When most people think of addiction they think of substance addiction but there are many things we can be addicted to, such as certain activities or behaviors. That urge that you feel to respond to every new text or to scroll through to the latest social media stories is a form of addiction. You feel like you need to check your phone at every chance you get and the habit is extremely hard to shake. Similar to other addictions, the more we use these screens the more we feel like we need to. This is because looking at screens produces a chemical in our brains called dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that causes us to feel happy and fulfilled. When we use screens for a certain amount of time, our brain adapts and less dopamine is released.
This causes us to want to use screens for increasingly larger intervals of time. This addiction can affect other aspects of your life. You can lose interest in your hobbies and other activities, such as reading, can become much less enjoyable. This addiction has become a very extreme problem in China. Many kids have stopped sleeping, eating, and going to the bathroom just so they don’t have to take their off their favorite video game(“New Documentary Explores). In most places, the level of addiction is not as bad as it is there. Even if it is not to this level it can still disrupt your life and the people in it. While Many people don’t notice the signs of addiction when it comes to screens but it can become a problem and can still disrupt your normal life.
The next consequence of excessive screen time is sleep problems. The blue light that most phones and electronics give off can disrupt sleep patterns. We have known for years that blue light is bad for sleep but a recent study showed just how it affects the body’s internal clock. Our internal clock is our body’s natural cycles, or circadian rhythms, that tell us when to sleep and when to wake up. The sunlight that we get helps to keep the cycles on a roughly 24-hour schedule. While electronics can give off all colors of light, blue light is one of the most prominent. This color of light is the most disruptive to our sleep cycles and causes us to stay more alert throughout the night. The study conducted tested 19 people on how they slept after using computers for two hours before they went to sleep. All the people were around the same age but experienced different types and amounts of light. They tested how long each person slept and how well they slept. Scientists recorded how many times each person woke up and charted their REM sleep. The results showed that those exposed to red light had little to no problem sleeping and slept around 16 minutes more than those exposed to blue light. Those who were exposed to blue light, however, slept lighter and woke up more over the course of the night. The study also showed that the blue light affected the amount of melatonin each person produced. Melatonin is a chemical in our brains that make us sleepy. When exposed to blue light, you make less melatonin and therefore do not get as tired(Yeager, Ashley). This study was successful in proving that screens and the light they emit can impact your sleep in multiple ways and can leave you feeling exhausted the next day.
The last impact of too much screen time is the divide that it can cause within a family. According to Nontoxic Living, “Family divides can happen when there is a breakdown in communication and connection among parents and children, or between adults(Ruan Gushée, Sophia).” This breakdown of communication is when conversations become distant and dishonest, or go away completely. Phones and other electronics can cause kids to be more distracted during family conversations, or it can cause them to avoid conversation all together. These divides can can cause misunderstandings and feeling of distrust and distance. Family members can begin to feel unimportant when technology takes over. When families never take a break from their screens, people end up feeling ignored. Relationships can break down and become weak. On top of this our current social media can cause children and teens to have a change in who their main influences are. “Technology such as cell phones and online gaming allows for children to be constantly connected to friends, making peers one of their largest influencers(Ruan Gushée, Sophia)”. With friends now a mere click away, kids are sharing less and less with their parents. New accounts that parents don’t know about keep parts of kids lives secret. With friends so accessible, kids no longer turn to parents to get advice. These divides can take away feelings of comfort, security, love, and trust, all things essential in a family. The last way screens can divide families are by giving fewer opportunities to parent. It becomes harder for parents to discipline and control what their kids do.
Many people believe that screens are not a problem and do nothing but good for our society, specifically kids for in school. They argue that new technology can tell us more about students then standardized testing and that technology sparks a curiosity and a need to learn in young kids. While these things are true, technology in school can be extremely disruptive. There are many times when I look over in class and the person next to me is playing games on their school Chromebook instead of getting work done. When a new game catches on their will be days when the entire class is off task and distracted. The amount of access that we have to games disrupt learning environments in many ways. They may not be that harmful during personal work time but distract people while teachers are talking. People find it so hard to tear their eyes away from the screen while someone else is talking. I don’t believe, however, that getting rid of technology is the solution. Our Chromebooks give us endless possibilities when it comes to learning and can do so much to aid our education. These advancements are helpful, but they have just as many bad effects as they do good.
Screen time has become a serious problem in our society due to addiction, causing sleep problems, and causing divide between families. In today's world screens can takeover every aspect of our lives. We would largely benefit from a limit on screen time at home, and more controlled use of technology at school.
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