By Ezra R., 6th grade, Krieger Schechter Day School of Chizuk Amuno Congregation
Technology is a useful tool that allows people of all ages to work more efficiently, access important information, and find enjoyment. Many pre-teens and teens use devices like computers, iPads and cellular phones with internet access for schoolwork but also enjoy playing games and checking social media sites like Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. They connect with friends without even stepping outside of their homes. But is this increased access a good thing? According to Kristen Wavle, middle school counselor at Krieger Schechter Day School, one reason children use their devices so much is “…there’s a lot of immediate gratification from social media, [including] ‘likes’ and seeing how many friends have contacted you.” These responses are quick, immediate and take just the touch of a finger to communicate.
Wavle has talked to worried parents who have concerns about their child’s technology overuse. According to the World Health Organization, children under five should have very limited screen time and spend most of their time engaging in physical and social activities to prevent obesity later in life. WHO representatives also indicate that this screen time should be spent watching educational programming and talking to family via video calls. Parents “… have described [their children] as being addicted to screens, and when parents take away screens as a form of punishment, their children have severe reactions, behavioral reactions.”
Smart Social, a data recording website says that social media use among teens has increased dramatically. According to Wavle, there are even injuries that teens can sustain when unmonitored and using technology “to their heart’s content.” She described texter’s thumb, which is “a stress injury from texting or swiping too much on their phones.”
Some even suffer from hallucinations after overplaying certain games. “When they’re not playing [the game], they can see the Tetris blocks falling around them or Mario jumping in front of them,” Wavle explains. This type of reaction shows how the overuse of technology is “serious and affecting [people’s] brains.” Micah B., a sixth-grade student at KSDS, adds that the “blue light that comes from screens can hurt your eyes.”
According to Sophie Jeong, a writer for CNN, screen and smartphone addictions are especially prevalent among teenagers in Korea. In fact, so many teens are addicted that the government has opened 12-day detox centers where teens participate in arts, crafts, scavenger hunts, and other social activities to reduce dependence on their screens. One teen even threatened to take his own life if they did not let him leave immediately. In her article, Jeong explains that in the long run, teenagers who overuse technology can suffer from social isolation and withdrawal symptoms.
However, according to the Recovery Village, a drug and mental health rehabilitation center in Florida, while two billion people play video games, online addiction statistics show that only up to 10% of those people are addicted. Micah explains that while screen addiction is a problem, he believes it is not our “biggest problem.” According to Micah, “People have been taking so many extreme steps [to rid our society of technology],” when all they really need to do is create simple solutions, like rules, not “more stories about how people are hallucinating.”
According to Christy Richter, a NICU nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a parent of a KSDS student, “Parents can prevent screen addiction by limiting [the] quantity of time on screens.”
However, while parents limit screens in their homes, many local schools have students use laptops or iPads for homework, reading, and writing essays. Therefore, students still have access to technology at school.
Schools attempt to limit screen time by initiating blocks on inappropriate content and games during school hours. However, many students bypass content blocks or find unblocked websites. There are also look-alike games on Cool Math and brain teaser sites, that have regular flash games, not math puzzles or riddles.
While video game addiction is not particularly common today, it could become a bigger problem as screens are implemented more and more into school curriculum and used more at home as well. Therefore, it remains important for young people to take responsibility to not overexpose themselves to screens and to use them safely with good judgement.