Owen Klein | April 9th, 2019
As technology continues to develop, innovations are becoming more accessible around the world. While this can be beneficial to a more efficient human society, it can also be detrimental, causing people to become indulged and dependant upon their devices. This isn’t only a problem with adults, however. Children as young as two years old are spending hours on end staring at screens, which only serves to fuel their addiction.
My family recently hosted a big Thanksgiving dinner with fifteen people in attendance. Eight of the fifteen, including myself, were children. After everyone finished cleaning up, I made my way to the basement to put away some of the leftover food. In was only as I made my way back upstairs that I realized: everyone in the basement was drawn to a device. The only noise was the sound of blasters coming from an iPad and a computer-generated voice coming from an Xbox. There was little (if any) raw human communication.
Young children are constantly being exposed to new phone apps, new television shows, new technology. The introduction of such things only encourages the use of screens. I’m not arguing that screens should be abolished from human society, but I think things can get a bit out of hand when screens begin to control people’s lives. Screens can become a strong source of addiction, furthering the user away from friends, family, and responsibility.
On a personal level, my youngest brother Archie has been around both people and technology every day, as he is constantly being exposed to new ideas and is continually observing his surroundings. My immediate family is bigger than most, with four kids. I am the oldest child in the family at 16 years old. Throughout my life, I have experienced a ton of technological innovation, with the first iPhone being introduced when I was five years old. During my younger childhood, screen media wasn’t at the point to where it was very appealing to young children. In turn, while I did have some interaction with screen media, it never played a notable role in my early childhood. However, as technology developed, screens became a bigger part of my life. Archie, on the other hand, was born in the midst of the technological revolution we are currently experiencing. He is living in a world where cars can drive for you, where people are planning to colonize Mars. At this point, technology is so developed that it is virtually impossible for Archie to live a tech-free life—nor would he want to. Though he isn’t fully dependable on screens, he does use the family iPad quite a bit, he watches a little bit of television, and, at times, he plays video games. Fortunately, my parents do limit his screen usage when they believe he is going over the top with his use.
However, there isn’t only an ethical argument for this cause; there are statistics to back it up. According to Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that provides education on the use of technology, American children ages 0 to 8 use screen media for an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes each day, with children under the age of 2 spending about 42 minutes, children ages 2 to 4 spending 2 hours and 40 minutes, and kids ages 5 to 8 spending a staggering 3 hours with screen media daily. This is a lot of time, especially when considering the recommended amount of screen usage. The American Academy of Pediatrics, a professional association, says that “children younger than 18 months should not use any screen media except for video chatting children younger than 18 months should not use any screen media except for video chatting, and until age 5 children should be limited to one hour of screen time per day.” By this point, the recommended amount of screen usage comes nowhere close to the statistics on screen usage of different age groups. It’s clear that technology use has become a problem. Also, according to Common Sense Media, in 2011, 38% of 0-8-year-olds had used a mobile device at least once in their lives, and in 2017, 84% of children had used a mobile device at least once. In only two years, that percentage more than doubled. This not only illustrates the drastic improvements in technology but also reveals how technology has become more accessible to children through marketing.
Unfortunately, I would be lying if I said that I don’t spend a lot of time on screens. According to Screen Time, the new iPhone update that allows you to track how much time you’ve been on your phone, I spend roughly three and a half hours per day on my phone. When I first found this out, I was pleased. In comparison with some of my friends, who spend up to five hours a day on their devices, my screen time was low. However, when I thought about the number itself, three hours, I realized that almost a quarter of my day is spent with my head down staring at a screen. Imagine everything I could accomplish if I cut out one hour of my daily usage: I could finish more homework, study, workout, talk with my family, and so much more.
All in all, there are many positives that come with screens and technology, but there are also countless negatives. Human society needs to learn how to use technology efficiently and cut out the negatives that come with technology. The world has a lot to offer, and soon enough, more technological innovations will fill retail shops, attracting large quantities of customers. Unfortunately, some of those customers will develop a dependence on their device, and it will control their lives. We must adapt, and learn how to use these magnificent innovations to better ourselves, the people around us, and the world.