The need to have a screen in front of us at any given time of the day has become a concern for most of us. Even when you try to resist the urge to have an electronic device in hand, the ring of a notification from a text, Facebook comment, or Snapchat story proves too irresistible.
Though “screen addiction” is not a medically-recognized disorder in the United States, it has a huge impact on the lives of those who experience it. Many are described as out of touch with their loved ones and the real world, and some cases are so serious that they require therapy worth thousands of dollars.
Thanks to the ubiquity of today’s technology, more people are prone to experience screen addiction than in the past. For instance, parents can keep disruptive children entertained and well-behaved by just handing them a smartphone or tablet. But this method of parenting can backfire, with studies suggesting kids can become heavily reliant on technology and develop traits which often lead to misbehavior.
This dependence only gets worse during adolescence, with surveys showing the average teen spends more than 70 hours consuming digital media during the week. It’s not surprise then that they spend less than 16 hours with parents, less than 11 hours doing physical activities, and just five hours on homework.
Adults are also profoundly affected by this phenomenon. According to a Nelson Company audience report published in June, the average American adult spends 10 hours and 39 minutes consuming media each day.
These long periods of exposure to digital media are similar to long periods of substance abuse in that it can lead to challenges in resisting the urge to use the technology. Dopamine, the feel-good chemical that is released after a hit of heroin, is also released when you score a point in an online game or receive likes on your Instagram post. Additionally, research from the US military has shown that video games and other screens can literally affect the brain like morphine.
In recent clinical trials, video games were used instead of morphine as an effective pain killer for burned combat victims. While the patients—who would normally be given large doses of morphine during their day—played the seemingly simple game, they reported feeling little or no pain.
Needless to say, this is great news for the future of pain-management treatments, but it leaves us wondering about the effects these digital drugs can have on the developing brains and nervous systems of our children
It is undeniable that modern technology has made a world of a difference
in our lives. It gives us the chance to keep in touch with distant loved ones, foster new relationships, or just share moments and ideas with an online community. However, dependence on this rapid access to media and instant gratification can have serious consequences in our lives. It is imperative to achieve a balance and to seek help if we feel this addiction is taking a toll on the more important aspects of our lives.
By Tiana Headley