We are living in an age that is so advanced technologically that it is nearly impossible to keep up with. If you look at the rate of advancements a century ago, it was very slow when it came to new inventions. Fast forward fifty years, then another twenty-five, and boom! It was a new invention to make life easier every day and now in the present, there is an app for this or a machine for that, regardless of the problem. We are removing struggle and being drowned with comfortability. There will come a time when we will have everything in a button’s reach and all we will want at that point is a genuine challenge. It’s baffling that we have an age restriction on drugs, alcohol, gambling, and driving but we do not have a restriction on phones?
Kids will admit that deep meaningful relationships are not around them. Kids tell me how no one is present when they are together, how the relationships they have are superficial and how these so-called friends are not reliable..they have fun and they laugh with their friends but they don’t turn to them with their problems but their devices and substances instead. Why? Well, today's teens and even millennials have grown up in a world of instant gratification, whenever they are down they can turn to a device to settle their problems. Feeling down? Hop on your phone for the dopamine hits from notifications and likes popping up. Need a distraction? Binge an entire show that’ll consume a week of your life. Want something? Amazon is one click away and it’ll be here tomorrow. Meet someone new? There’s an app for that, swipe, swipe, swipe. Teaching young people that these filtered images and brief bios are the proper way to introduce ourselves and meet someone. That “judging a book by its cover” is now further amplified and that awkward, thrilling stage of having to introduce yourself and ask for a number is now gone. Millennials are moving further from the natural world and being handed devices to become dependent upon these screens for all emotional stability. Here’s a game you can play, take your child’s phone for five minutes, even for a second and they will have a meltdown, scream, and cry. It’s becoming a part of them. Everything we want we can have instantly… Except for jobs, educational satisfaction, and personal relationships. What we allow, we encourage. As adults, it’s just as bad for us but we tend to not think so. “Oh, I have to check my stocks”, “I have emails to respond to”, “texts to reply to”, but in reality, we have an addiction to these devices just as bad as our youth. I’ve noticed in meetings, at dinner tables, and work brunches that a phone is in the hands of the person across from you texting someone who isn’t there. That’s the opposite of being present and shallows the relationships of those who are there. If we want our youth to change, we have to change first.
Somewhere along the way, our youth have lost sight of the importance of patience. What’s putting a hole in the enjoyment of the journey ties back into the phone. The simultaneous gratification that these phones grant, causes a major imbalance in their willingness to see that the variable of time is what provides the possibility. Whether that’s finding true fulfillment behind their work, building a genuine connection with someone they are intimate with and falling in love, or seeing growth in their physical and mental understanding. We are remarkable beings, but as parents and role models we hobble ourselves and our youth, subconsciously and consciously, by allowing deception, revenge, and resentment to get the best of us. If we were to consciously decide to think critically, dispense wisdom, display heroic effort, and be an example for our youth, we will drastically shift their mindset of personal capability without a doubt. We have gradually invited ourselves to get consumed by the “go go go” lifestyle, the addictive technology, separating us from the authentic world. This has caused us to turn a blind eye to our youth’s development and the disturbing acceptance of technology getting in the hands of our children from the jump! By the age of one, you see this all the time, these babies have an iPad in their hand with a show playing. We must begin to rip the bandaid off and slowly separate our youth from the phone and spend more time with them ourselves. Having them look in the mirror, look within, and engage with others in real life is crucial. Reducing cyberbullying, reviving our youth’s emotional state by not having constant comparison dinging in their pockets and reminding them of what the real world is like.
It is scientifically proven that kids who have excessive screen time on a daily basis stagger their ability to observe and experience normal, typical activities they need to do, in order to understand the world, leading to a “tunnel vision” in certain areas and this can bring necessary development to a halt. Anything over 6 hours a day for an individual nearly guarantees depression and anxiety for that person. This is no shock because if you’re spending that many hours each day on this device instead of engaging in human connection, that person has now become dependent on a screen to give them “company,” leading to ultimate loneliness and destruction of self-esteem and drive. The question is, “how do we resolve the issue of screen use and backtrack back to rational usage?” Start by reviewing your own media habits as parents and plan time for alternative play and activities as a family. Encourage daily “screen-free” times by suggesting board games, artistic hobbies, and exercise. Getting out and playing ball, swimming, anything along those lines is very valuable. Also, turning off your own screens and putting them in another room when they are not in use (including background TV) is a powerful modeling tool. Lastly, avoid screens at least one hour before bedtime and discourage recreational screen use in bedrooms as the day leads to night because the screen keeps the brain active, affects sleep and the mental state. With all things… These things take time. Don’t get verbally aggressive and force it necessarily but set the expectation calmly and act out that expectation. As we all know, actions speak louder than words.
Written by Nicholas Salvemini
HGMT Behavioral Specialist & Mentor