Why excessive screen time is a major danger

Technology has transformed the way we live but not everything that is digital is a positive change

Technology has transformed the way we live, interact and socialise. It has changed the way we work and how business is made. However, not everything that is digital is a positive change. Over the past couple of years we have seen how social media has been used in nefarious ways to influence opinion and how not-so-correct and blatantly incorrect information was dispersed across the digital world through manipulation. But that is only part of the problem.

A study by an American non-profit, Common Sense Media, shows that so-called ‘tweens’ consume six hours of media everyday, four-and-a-half hours of which is screen time. This is relatively low compared to teens, where numbers increase to nine hours of media consumption and six hours and 40 minutes per day of screen time.

There are serious ramifications behind these numbers. A separate study published in November by Jean Twenge shows that teenagers who spend five or more hours on electronic devices are 71% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide compared to those who spend less than an hour a day.

As games and mobile applications get better and better everyday, it is our job to make sure that children are shielded from technology overuse

In the same category, these teens are also 52% more likely to sleep less than seven hours a night, leading to sleep deprivation. This, in turn, comes back with other type of repercussions - both physical and mental. These are the most serious ones. There are other aspects of one’s life, such as socialisation, which also come into play.

I remember that in the 1990s when game consoles started to gain popularity, they had the same effect. But the content and quality of today’s digital consumption is much higher, and more addictive. Accessibility plays a big role, because through mobile phones each child or family member has a device they can be absorbed into, rather than sharing television use. It’s a very individualistic and secluded experience today.

Technology leaders, and their children, have no concessions from these troubles. The iconic figure who designed some of the bestselling devices in this area, Steve Jobs, knew that overuse was dangerous, especially among children. A journalist had asked the Apple co-founder if his children used the iPad and his reply was that “they haven’t used it” and that “there’s a limit to how much technology our kids use at home.” Apple’s chief designer, Jony Ive, also said that constant use of the iPhone was misuse and Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker expressed similar sentiments only recently.

This is why a healthy approach to the use of digital devices is so important, especially at an early age. This is not the sole competence of school, but more importantly of parents and family. Our children and grandchildren cannot be locked in a box and banned from technology. It’s among us and we must make use of it. However, there must be a balance, as in everything in life. Too much of something cannot be good, and as content, games and mobile applications get better and better everyday, it is our job to make sure that children are shielded from technology overuse – this approach is vital for their mental, social and physical well-being.

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