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  • Heather Davis

Our Newest Addiction: Screens as Our Little Master

Updated: Mar 19

It’s not rational but addiction isn’t rational: everyone constantly staring at screens rather than interacting with real life.

But it’s the impact on the developing brain of kids that is most dramatic and maybe even a little terrifying.

Facts still matter. Generally, I’m able to adjust my behavior if quality research indicates that I am doing something that is not in my own best interest. And I hesitate not at all if that research shows some behavior is harmful to my child.

Research study after study, year after year, all over the globe all point to the same, wide-ranging and dramatic conclusions about the over-consumption of digital media on a growing brain. All the texting and surfing and scrolling and playing and chatting and streaming is again and again linked to the development of ADHD, lower levels of happiness, depression, lower self-esteem, less empathy, increased apathy and a general lower psychological well-being.

Kids today spend 5-15 hours a day on average staring at screens. The technology addiction is no different than addictions to eating, smoking, drinking or drugs.

All the time spent on devices is cutting into sleep and into physical activity, increasing levels of obesity and having severe health impacts. Some estimate that the current generation will be the first in history to die earlier than their own parents.

Today children spend 90% of their time indoors, less time than prisoners. This separation from the natural world is just exacerbating the effects of the digital media overload. Time in nature has shown to improve mental well-being, reduce anxiety levels, increase problem-solving ability, boost self-esteem and increase generosity and kindness.

For all the effort and yes, pressure put on our kids to achieve in school and in sports and other extracurriculars in hopes of college and success beyond, what does it matter if they are unable to take in the expensive information once they get there? Studies link childhood ADHD to later adult substance abuse and even criminal activity. At the very least, we’re looking at a generation of people unable to sit still and focus long enough to accomplish anything meaningful, instead being easily distracted and in need of constant stimulation. Those are not the employees I want to hire.

It’s the world’s largest experiment and we are just now seeing the very beginning of the impact to come. We are training the next generation to passively take in the creative ideas of others; to accept and follow someone else’s agenda. How are children going to learn to think for themselves when they are being hardwired to simply consume?

My hope is to raise one of the very few members of the control group. My 10-year old is not yet in front of a screen and every day that I can hold off that inevitable tidal wave heading my way, the more brain connections and empathy she develops. It’s not easy. It’s not for the lazy. It’s not for a parent that needs to be liked. But my child’s brain and psyche are worth the effort and short-term pain.

So, for now she plays with other actual human beings in person, builds Lego towns, writes stories, plays outside and catches lizards. She has even developed business plans for a few product and service ideas she’s working on.

Someone will need to be the thinker. Someone will need to manage all the robots desperately waiting to absorb whatever comes next on the screen.

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