One study concludes that an increase in screen time for adolescents relates with higher obesity rates.
Scientists followed over 20,000 adolescents starting in 1994 and 1995 and continued to keep tabs on them until their young adulthood to determine how different levels of screen time and activity contributed to obesity in adolescents as they grow into young adults. They measured data through in-home surveys and found that individuals whose activity and screen use fell under the Wave III category had twice as many cases of obesity as those under the Wave II category, where individuals in Wave III had higher screen time.
Engineered addiction triggers only serve to increase screen time, especially among children and adolescents. If we continue to remain unaware of how technology addiction can take over our daily lives, we will quickly see the effect it has on our physical health.
More specifically, increased screen time can cause unhealthy eating habits, which can in turn increase obesity rates.
Researchers tracked Body Mass Index scores and correlated them to self reported eating and physical activity habits. They determined that teens who snack in front of screens are 71% more likely to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome than teens who did not snack in front of screens.
Snacking is actually another behavior that triggers reward pathways in our brain. When we snack and have screen time simultaneously, we are teaching our brains that screen time triggers dopamine and that we should spend more time on screens. This adds an additional level of addiction to the addiction triggers already present in technology, creating a cycle that is harder to break out of.
The effects of screen time aren’t limited to physical health. One study finds that the psychological well-being of young people progressively decreases as screen time over an hour increases.
Researchers tracked the screen time of young people ages ages 2-17. They determined that participants with seven hours of screen time had a risk of low well-being two times higher than those with under an hour of screen time. Also, participants with high screen time were less likely to stay calm, finish tasks, and be curious, and they argued more with their parents.
Since the engineered triggers try to keep us hooked to our devices, our mental well-being can take a hit as we spend more and more time in the virtual world. Social media is especially notorious for its negative effects on well-being, because it takes advantage of our desire for social approval. Specifically, social media companies know that getting “likes” on our photos makes us feel good, and they send notifications to maximize our chances of using the platform. However, these superficial “likes” don’t equate with true personal connection, so we’re often left feeling empty or even longing for more approval, signs of low mental well-being.
A recent study shows that screen time is directly related to sleep deprivation, and can have negative effects on focus.
Scientists obtained screen time, sleep duration, sleep disturbance data from 621 parents with kids ranging from ages 3-17. They split the community sample into three age groups-- 3-7 (youngest), 8-12 (middle childhood), 13-17 (adolescence)--and concluded across the board that kids with more screen time have a lower quality sleep. The more time we’re on our screens, the more sleep disturbances we have, and the less sleep we get. Sleep impacts our ability to focus, and so, it turns out, does screen time.
Why is this? One explanation is that engineered psychological triggers in apps exist to increase how long we interact with websites, social media, video games, and more. Because there are so many triggers on such a variety of platforms, our technology constantly inundates us with these triggers that try to persuade us to stay in the virtual world. Because of this, screen time increases, which decreases the quality of sleep, and because of that, focus.
Focus and Concentration
According to Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, too much screen time harms the ability to focus, concentrate, and even communicate with others, especially in young people whose brains are still developing.
A study conducted by Stanford researchers in 2009 reports that digital multitasking--dealing with multiple streams of information at once--has damaging effects on memory and concentration. Researchers put 100 students through three tests of memory and concentration. The results show that high multitasking students performed much worse than the low multitasking students, and that we can only really think about one stream of information at a time.
This illustrates that the constant multitasking, such as managing multiple text conversations at once, texting and watching Youtube, or watching videos while “doing homework”, is really harmful in the long run. The apps in our phones are full of triggers that try to grab our attention, and since there are so many different platforms -- social media, email, games -- we deal with at once, it’s near impossible to focus on one thing for a long duration. Constantly shifting our attention can have long-term detrimental effects on our focus ability, which can actually hinder future success.
All photos by: Brinda Ambal