Research is bringing forth some dramatic numbers. On average, 8-18 year olds spend between 7.5 to 11.5 hours per day on technology and 3 hours of this time using social media. The average adult spends 11 hours each day in front of the screen.
These devices, some of which are toted to create connection, are actually the source of social disconnection. Technology makes adults and teens profoundly anti-social. Our happiness and longevity are on the decline. Disease and loneliness are increasing.
Screen time is a likely cause of the ongoing increase in teen depression, anxiety and suicide. Numbers significantly changed around 2012 when smartphones and tablets became widespread among teenagers. And teens who spend more time on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy. After a little less than an hour a day of time spent on a smartphone, their well-being begins to decrease. These statistic also mirror adult figures as well.
When we are young we don’t always use good judgment because we’ve yet to form good judgment. The prefrontal cortex is where we house problem solving, decision making and impulse control and it’s not fully developed until you are in your 20s. As a teenager and into the 20s, they are inherently lacking these critical skills and yet perpetually using devices that ask them to respond immediately, react immediately, make decisions immediately, to click, like, tag and post. They/we are not asked to stop and critically think.
Research is also showing that we are 40% less empathetic than we were 30 years ago. Exercising empathy fosters connection, if we don’t, we become disconnected and ultimately foster loneliness.
We learn empathy through vulnerable situations and experiences. On social media we are masking our vulnerability. Social media portrays one-side of our life, and it's the side that we want people to see, not our real side, not our vulnerable side. We can't empathize with one another when we aren't being authentic and vulnerable.
The common thread among all ages is that more screen time means less time for activities that are good for our health and well-being. The most important question to ask yourself is...What is screen time replacing? A lot of us are giving up sleep, communicating with each other as a family, social connection, exploring the world, exercising, hobbies, etc. Remember we are all disciplined to something, what are we disciplined to?
This fall season, let's intentionally chose to decrease our personal screen time and replace it with actively engaging in life through social connection, nature and experiences that nurture and fill up our spirits with goodness.