Welcome to Relationship Helpers! We’re so glad you’ve taken the time to listen to us today! You’re catching us towards the end of our podcast, as we are about to take a break.
Today’s episode marks our 97th episode. When we hit 100, we’re going to take a break from the weekly podcasts, but be sure to check our website as we will continue to update it with great information.
Technology’s Pros & Cons
Over forty years ago, it would not be uncommon for Vincent’s parents to tell him to step away from the tv screen claiming “It’s going to hurt your eyes!” Oh, how times have changed!
These days kids and adults alike are transfixed by a mobile screen device that is used to avoid talking in the waiting room or while waiting in the check out aisle. It’s used in bumper to bumper traffic as an escape and it’s a substitute for having a real, face-to-face conversation. When you don’t want to “people” you can go on Facebook.
Technology has its benefits, but also its pitfalls. Sometimes its use can be an unintentional mindless activity that makes us feel productive, but in the long run, what are we doing to ourselves?
Brain Development & Devices
Did you know that your personality—so much of who you are as a person— is centered just behind your forehead. The prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain just behind your forehead, is responsible for decision-making, executive functioning, empathy and impulse control.
Did you know that device usage is shrinking our prefrontal cortexes by about 10 to 20 percent?!? That’s a scary thought. No wonder so many parents bring their kids to our therapy practice wanting to know why their child suffers from attention issues, the inability to empathize with others, poor decision-making skills and social anxiety.
We highly recommend reading “The Digital Invasion” by Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd to get a stronger grasp of technology’s impact on children and what we can do about it.
We are a nation with children that have “digital dementia.” Neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer coined this term upon learning that because we are becoming overly reliant on technology, our brains our losing cognitive functioning.
When we receive a “like” or a “follow” on social media, it hits the pleasure center of our brain like a drug. Recently we had a senior in high school conduct an informal study among his friends. He asked each one how often they check their phones. The highest number was two hundred and forty five times in one day. The lowest, sixty-nine. The average: 147.18 times.
Obviously this isn’t a formal study, but we know that teens are using smartphones prolifically. Imagine having two hundred and forty-five “hits” similar to a drug hit? We’re not talking about something lethal like heroin or cocaine, BUT the chemicals in our brains are not something to mess around with. They alter how we experience the world around us.
How Can I “Parent” This?
In our work as therapists, we often have parents tell us that their children “do so much better” when they do not have devices. For many of you listening to this, you may be thinking it’s too late. What can you do now?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics children under the age of two should have no exposure to devices or tv. Those between two and five should only have one hour of quality tv programming that you watch with them. If you have a child above the age of six, you should set a consistent amount of time that your child uses media. Take into account how much sleep they should be getting, along with physical and social activities. Device usage should not take the place of these activities.
If you have a teen that has had unlimited technology usage, you may be struggling with what to do about it now, especially if you’re seeing concerning behaviors.
How Do I Know If My Child is Using Too Much Technology?
Be aware that two hours of social media usage contributes to anxiety and unhappiness among teenagers. Signs that your child is suffering from too much exposure to social media and technology include:
- Grades dropping
- Careless work
- Difficulty having conversations with others
- Anxiety surrounding routines
- “Phubbing” (choosing to look at phones instead of the people around them)
- Relationship issues surrounding device usage.
How Do I Get Us Back On Track?
Some teens are looking at screens eleven hours per day. Some are on-screen more a day than they sleep. This degree of exposure also limits the amount of face-to-face conversations they have with the people that are important to them, most importantly family.
Intentionally Spend Off Devices
Make it a point to put your own phone down. Put away your laptops. Turn off the tv. Model “screen-free time.” Make yourself available to chat with your child. Plan activities such as bowling, hiking, any kind of FUN activity that you can do together as a family. Help them to want to spend time AWAY from their screens.
Don’t allow social media usage among children under the thirteen year old requirement. Have limits for each person in the family. Educate yourself on the different apps out there—be aware that many apps are deceptive and are not what they appear to be. (Consider how some may look like a calendar app on the home screen but they are actually a deceptive app meant to hide unwanted behaviors.)
Encourage Your Kids To Be Social
Help your kids learn to be social by engaging them. Have them order their own food at restaurants. Make them order pizza delivery. Have them schedule appointments on the phone. Don’t shield them from these tasks. They learn how to do these things on your watch. If you do it for them, they will be forced to try to learn how to do it as adults, or worse, they avoid doing them all together.
Make family dinner time a priority. This time is specified as ‘device free.”
Show Discipline Yourself
Model healthy device habits yourself. You can’t preach limiting social media or device usage without doing it yourself. Turn off your devices and turn your attention on your children. Have meaningful conversation.
The rapid-fire social media environment lends itself to very little depth. We’re constantly jumping to the next best thing. It doesn’t allow room for having deep, meaningful experiences. We’ve let gaming become how we do life, jumping from the next thing to the next. As parents, we have to make the change.
Resources: The Center For Digital Wellness
“The Digital Invasion” by Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd