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Andrea H.

Gray

Screen Addiction, A Clinical Disorder?

Is todays habit of always being connected to electronic media taking a toll on our youth?

Are we in danger of having a generation addicted to their screens? Some countries, such as

China, already consider screen addiction a clinical disorder and we, here in America, may not be

too far behind. As I look around me on a daily basis in department stores, in classrooms, while

driving, in restaurants, and even at home, I find that most everyone around me is on their phones.

Jane E. Brody, author of Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children for The New

York Times cites some interesting statistics gathered by the American Academy of Pediatrics

from a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2010: The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly

eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more

than 11 hours per day. Computers, tablets, and cell phones are becoming the babysitters of

todays generation. While parents can feel a sense of relief that their children are occupied for

several hours of the day, are they aware of the potential harm it can be causing the youth?

Overuse of electronic media can result in significant negative effects on young peoples

mental health, physical health, school performance, and behavior. For instance, young people

who play video games with simulated violence can become immune to violent acts and become

less empathetic to the world around them. They are more likely to act out aggressively

themselves, they fight with their peers and argue with their teachers, according to a study in the

Journal of Youth and Adolescence. (Brody) Time spent on media can infringe on time that
should be spent on schoolwork, thus grades can suffer. Reading and writing skills may suffer

and become a lower priority to the youth.

As early as late elementary school we begin to see cyberbullying through social media.

This relatively new form of bullying can affect young people directly and indirectly. In the

article, Its Just Drama: Teen Perspectives On Conflict and Aggression In a Networked Era for

The Journal of Your Studies by authors Alice Marwick and Danah Boyd, they cited a study that

reported that while only 19% of teens reported being bullied in the last year, ...88% had

witnessed mean or cruel behavior on social media (Lenhart et al. 2011). Meaning that while a

seemingly small number of teens reported actually being bullied, a large number of teens

witnessed accounts of cruelty or bullying online. As an adult on social media, I cant say I have

witnessed cyberbullying online. But, I have watched television programs and documentaries

about this growing problem. The most recent program I watched was the Netflix series 13

Reasons Why in which a high school girl named Hannah Baker commits suicide leaving behind

tapes giving the reasons behind her suicide. Hannahs downward spiral into depression began

with cyberbullying, with a photograph that appeared to be what it was not. The photo was

instantly shared throughout her high school. Not one student stopped to think about the affect it

would have on her, they just laughed and posted or passed the picture along.

In the book The App Generation, professors Howard Gardner and Katie Davis state that

...about 30 to 40 percent of ordinary conversation consists of people talking about themselves,

whereas around 80 percent of social media updates are self-focused. Youth today are focused

on themselves and how they appear to others. They present a packaged self (Gardner and

Davis). Youth can choose and edit each status they post and each photo they upload to the ideal

picture of themself they want the world to see. But, this isnt their reality, its idealized. And it
can be very hard to live up to. Just like Katherine Pommerening in the Washington Post's article

by author Jessica Contrera states about her photos, I decide the pictures that look good, she

says. Ones with my friends, ones that are a really nice-looking picture. Young people often

look to celebrities for their role models who are also only putting up idealized self images, and

they have expert help to create their perfect images.

Many people, including some researchers, argue that social media interactions can help

foster friendships for those who are normally shy in person. Youngstown State University

professors, Megan Sponcil and Priscilla Gitmu claim in their article, Use of Social Media by

College Students: Relationship to Communication and Self-Concept for the Journal of

Technology Research that, Using social media sites helped improve the quality of relationships

between users...it was easier to get to know others without having face-to-face conversations,

users felt more comfortable, and users spent more time communicating over the computer so

they gained more social support. I have seen this with my own son, Memo. On the computer

he is outgoing, charming, and very funny with all of his friends. Everyone loves checking in

with him daily to see what he is up to, to view his latest artwork, and to chat. I have allowed him

time on the computer because I thought it would help him become more extraverted. I want him

to be more open, because in person he is extremely shy. But, for Memo this has not been the

case. While he is outgoing online, he is still and maybe even more so, very shy in person. He

has severe social anxiety and doesnt even like to leave the house if he doesnt have to go out. I

worry about how he is going to do when he goes to college next year. Will he hide in his dorm

room behind a computer screen where he is comfortable? Or will he venture out?

Have we as parents already created a generation addicted to their screens? Is it too late

for us to slow the addiction down or to reverse it? Can we find a healthy balance between the
real world and the digital world? I think that if we work hard to set limits for ourselves and our

older youth we can find a balance. And as for the younger children coming up, we need to

remember that as a child develops during its earliest years it learns best by one on one interaction

with people, not with screens. Therefore it is best not to introduce electronic media to small

children. We should encourage children to engage in imaginative play, play outdoors, and

learning new hobbies. We should ALL get outside more and spend time talking face to face.

Works Cited

Brody, Jane E. Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children. The New York Times.

The New York Times, 06 July 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.


Contrera, Jessica. 13 Right Now, This is What Its Like to Grow Up in the Age of Likes, Lols,

and Longing. The Washington Post. WP Company, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

Gardner, Howard, and Katie Davis. The App Generation: How Todays Youth Navigate Identity,

Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World. New Haven, CT: Yale U Press, 2014. Print.

Marwick, Alice, and Danah Boyd, Its Just Drama: Teen Perspectives on Conflict and

Aggression in a Networked Era. Journal of Youth Studies, 09 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

Sponcil, Megan, and Pricilla Gitmu. Use of Social Media by College Students: Relationship to

Communication and Self-Concept. Journal of Technology Research, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

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