Alexandria Abramian is well versed in the digital world. For starters, she works as an Editor for Forcefield, an app that allows parents to monitor and manage children’s time and activity on devices. But she’s also a mom. So, she keeps a close eye on how technology is impacting kids. You’ll sometimes hear parents joke about their kids being addicted to their devices. Here, Alexandria explains how digital device addiction is very real. And it’s no laughing matter.
Digital Device Addiction — It’s Not Just Parents Taking Notice
Worried that your child may be addicted to their smartphone? You're not alone.
Earlier this week, two Apple investors, New York-based Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, sent an open letter to the company. They urged Apple to offer more tools and features to help fight digital device addiction among children.
“There is a developing consensus around the world including Silicon Valley that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies need to be factored in at the outset, and no company can outsource that responsibility,” the letter said, adding: “Apple can play a defining role in signaling to the industry that paying special attention to the health and development of the next generation is both good business and the right thing to do.”
Digital Device Addiction — Addictive by design?
They are part of a growing group of tech insiders pointing to the addictive aspect of unfettered screen time access. Last year, former Google product manager Tristan Harris claimed companies like Snapchat and Facebook biochemically hook users by utilizing "brain hacking" technologies. He likened the impact of constant social media notifications and updates to the unending lure of slot machines. Likes, emojis, text messages, followers, Snapchat streaks and more all keep users obsessively checking in for more. This creates an addictive attachment to our phones, argues Harris.
The data backs that up. Common Sense Media's landmark survey in 2015 of 2,658 8- to 18-year-olds revealed that U.S. teens spend an average of nine hours on media per day. And tweens clock in six hours daily.
Digital Device Addiction — How screen time hurts kids' mental health
Jean Twenge is an expert and the author of "iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood." She suggests all of that screen time is taking its toll.
Twenge identifies people born between 1995 and 2012 as "iGen," those who have never lived without the Internet. She argues that unrestricted hours online have led to an explosion of depression, loneliness, sleep deprivation and even suicide among teens.
"Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It's not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones." –Jean Twenge, Ph.D.
Digital Device Addiction — What parents can do
Experts agree that one of the most critical things parents can do is to take steps to reduce their child's amount of screen time. A recent study looked at eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media. It turns out they are 56 percent more likely to say they're unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Tweens and teens who are heavy social media users increase their risk of depression by a staggering 27 percent.
Yes, your child may argue they need to be on Instagram at night or keep that Snapchat streak going indefinitely. But protecting their digital downtime may be one of the most important steps to take.
WATCH: Quick Tour Of Forcefield Parental Control Software
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