You live in an era where it’s easier to spend time in front of a screen than go do things out in the world. It’s hard to go more than three minutes without some form of entertainment. If you look at what you’re parents are doing, there’s a good chance mom, dad or both are also addicted to technology. They don’t even go to the bathroom without taking their phone! This means it’s not just your age group, so don’t feel condemned.
Here are the positives of being on social media, playing video games, watching Netflix, or spending time on any other app. First of all, you’re pretty much staying out of trouble. You could be out doing drugs, or getting into all kinds of stuff; instead you’re at home where mom and dad know you’re safe. Secondly, you’re probably never bored. You always have something to keep you occupied. When I was your age, if we couldn’t get ahold of our friends then we had almost nothing do do at home. Thirdly, you probably communicate with your friends all the time. Between commenting on their pictures or messages, and sending them texts or Snapchats, you’re always in contact.
Like anything though, there are some negatives to too much screen time. I bet you can guess what I’m going to say. First of all, you might not be taking great care of your physical health. One study came out that said people who use a lot of electronics are more sedentary, and eat more calories than those who don’t. The combination of not moving much, and eating in front of the TV because you’re bored can equate to carrying excess weight. The second problem you might have is that everyone looks happy on social media. They tend to post pictures when they’re with friends, or put up posts that say how much fun they’re having. You’ve probably heard, but this isn’t real. Every single person who posts things has times where they lack confidence, are lonely, feel angry, etc. It’s just not very common to write things on Facebook like, “I’m feeling ugly today because I have a huge zit in the middle of my forehead.”
Thirdly, some of you struggle with face to face interactions. When you text or post things all the time, you get to think before you hit send. That’s so nice because you have a few seconds or even minutes to formulate your answer. When you’re in person though you feel awkward and uncomfortable. You’re not with your peers in person as much as generations before you, so you haven’t spent as much time practicing the nuances of conversation. It’s really an art to be funny, witty, deep, and thought-provoking in a face to face conversation. Most people need a lot of practice to get there, and they practiced it growing up with their friends. Now you don’t do as much of that. It just makes things harder when you go on a date or interview for a job.
If you worry that you might be addicted to technology, here’s a quick self-test. Put down all forms of technology for 3 days in a row. Can you do it? If you can find books to read, enjoy going on a walk, and figure out how to talk with people, you’re probably okay. However, if you feel a sense of withdrawal, and a little bit depressed without your technology, then recognize that you might have a psychological dependence on it that goes beyond what is within healthy limits.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT