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Society’s Screen and Social Media Obsession: It Will Change

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My husband and I were talking about kids and screens. He’s eighteen years older than me. I told him, “You know, I don’t think kids are going to be obsessed with screens and social media when they’re older, because even I’m getting sick of them.” He said, “Of course they won’t. There will be something new to take over!

He told me how when he was a kid, it was the phone. Then, it was TV.

Do you remember our mothers talking on the phone? They talked on the phone for HOURS!

They watched TV.

They read books and the newspapers.

Then, computers came along and they played solitaire. Then, chat rooms. Then mobile phones and texting with one hand holding the phone while driving (yikes, I used to all the time).

So, what’s so different about our usage of screens and social media we’re all obsessed with right now? Probably nothing, I predict. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if in twenty years, the thought of posting about your dinner on facebook and instagram becomes laughable.

Having these super powerful tiny ‘computers‘ that do everything in the palm of our hands, is a new thing for now. Our society hasn’t fully gotten used to this new handheld omnipotent gadget yet. Actually, many of us are still learning that it’s not a smart idea to stare at your screen while you’re crossing the road! Sort of like how it took society a few years to realise that holding your phone while driving needed to be illegal…

Eventually, people will start realising, there’s nothing there… staring at a screen and posting photos of your life and looking at photos of other’s lives will eventually get old. I actually can’t wait for the hashtag to go out of style. Ha! Over time, the technology will change and the way we use the technology will change.

When I was about 12 years old, I remember shutting myself my room and playing this video game for hours a day! It’s all I wanted to do. A year or two later, I wouldn’t have spent a second playing it. It got old.

A lot of people have pre-digital technology nostalgia. Weren’t people were so much more ‘present‘ back in the ‘golden olden days‘… you know, when the dads used to hide behind newspapers at the breakfast table or smoking a pipe and listening to the radio. Yup… nope.

That tendency in society to disconnect from reality has always been there! Just in different forms. Smartphones are powerful tools. All at once, they instantly connect us with friends, family and the world. They’re our phone, our camera, our weather forecast, our email, entertainment, a calculator, a flashlight… and Siri has the answer for every werido question my 5 year old comes up with.

Eventually, most people will eventually learn to regulate, but right now, these toys are new and exciting.

But, what about the people who are truly addicted?

And what about kids?

Regardless of the fact that one day the screens won’t hold the same charm in the future, addictions are real and have a powerful affect on our children. And some people and especially, kids, are taking life behind a screen quite seriously, with addiction, depression, anxiety and even suicide resulting from negative interactions on social media.

It’s important for parents to watch our children and look for signs of a beating heart and make sure our kids are not turning into little oxygen bandits by staring at the screen for too long. (haha, joking/not joking).

I can always tell when my kids are looking to use the phone as a distraction. First, they come to me whining, “Can I use the phone for….” Then, I say, “No.” Then they ask, “Can I have a snack?” I say, “Not now, we’re about to have dinner.” And then they whine and whine and maybe cry and sometimes scream! It’s because they’re feeling unpleasant and looking for something to distract themselves from those feelings. I get it. The phone is a powerful tool. But… is it anymore powerful than books once seemed? Or any more powerful than the video games we used to play? I think not. It’s just because it’s new.

Eventually, staring at screens, compulsively using social media will get boring to ‘most‘ people, it will lose its charm or it will change. People will want real life again! Hasn’t it happened to you?! You just get sick of staring at the screen?

It has happened over and over again throughout the history of digital technology and even before that!

For example, when literacy rates became high, and kids started reading too many novels, many people in society thought it was the kid who had his nose buried in a book who was going to be the downfall of society.

These days, people still read novels and they still watch movies… but that obsession is gone for *most* of them. (Of course, there are always exceptions).

This is not to say that we should have a free-for-all mentality when it comes to letting our kids on screens and social media. Just because the problem of screens and social media is bound to go away, it doesn’t mean that we don’t presently have a problem with them.

Age and Screens

Most research states that children under a certain age (2 years old) should not have any screen time, and this is important because of the way their brain is developing. And, other people would say that a child can’t distinguish between what’s on a screen and what’s real life until they are a certain age. And, then you have to watch for kids distracting themselves from reality. For example, if a toilet trained child can’t even unglue themselves from the screen long enough to use the toilet, and they wet themselves, then they probably are a little too disconnected and could use a little screen detox. And, I’m actually really against letting young children watch movies…

It’s important to remember that prolonged staring at a screen can lead to exposing oneself to blue light levels that could result in headaches and loss of sleep. Luckily glasses exist which prevent such effects and are available from Felix Gray.

The smart phones and apps and facebook and instagram and all the other things people are wasting their time on now, it will change! In the meantime, it’s up to us to use these tools wisely.

4 Responses »

  1. I am curious as to how you handle screen time within your house?
    You said you actually don’t like children under 2 to watch movies, I know you have younger and older kids so how do you avoid it. Do you avoid screens completely with your youngest?

    • Hi Taya! I do try and avoid screens for little ones. My older kids are 8 and nearly 6. The 8 year old can watch a little more than the 6 year old… The little one is only 19 months, so I don’t really ‘let’ him watch anything, unless it happens by accident. I think it’s important to use screens with awareness. Like, I ask myself the questions, why are they using them. Is it for entertainment? Information? Or is it distraction from painful emotions? Or, maybe I actually need them to be on the screen for a little so that I can get something done? I guess I would have to say there’s no real quota that I let them watch. The movie thing comes down to violence and ideals that I’m in line with. It’s not that I’m actually against movies, it just so happens that I can’t find any that I actually like! I hope that makes sense…

  2. I do understand the thought behind your article but comparing screens to books is not right. Books are not as addictive, you have to put in effort (reading) and don’t get easy entertainment like screens do, by just pushing a button. There is a lot of evidence that screens are so much more addictive. Plus books leave so much more room for imagination. And I’ve never seen anyone addicted to the newspaper but I have seen with screens. It is sad that nowadays kids get screens to push bad feelings or boredom away. it’s great that you first see where the need comes from, because if it’s boredom or bad feelings, then it sets them up to seek other suppressers of boredom later in life, like alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately many people don’t do that like you do and I worry about those kids growing up.

    • This article is about comparing the ‘new-ness’ of screens to all the other technology in the past. When novels first came out, and people had their noses in books all the time, it was considered mind-numbing, waste of time, and even scandalous. But, the masses being literate was a new thing, so everyone was obsessed. One could argue that books leave little to the imagination because people can get just as engrossed by the characters in a book, or the story line, and end up fantasising about it, just like they would with a screen… The evidence is new! If research had been conducted when newspapers were new, or when novels were new, there may have been similar findings. It is true that screens emit radiation… and that’s something thankfully books do not.


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