The Secret Dangers of a Screen


Maddy Charette, Staff Writer

Electronics can be extremely beneficial in modern society. They allow people a half a world away to communicate. They enable people to give and receive emergency messages in no time. They open up all of our worlds to a land where anything is possible. Where else could someone find out who invented the pretzel but Google? Where else could one know what their college roommate’s mom’s veterinarian had for lunch yesterday than by Instagram? Mobile telephones, tablets, laptops, and so much more have enriched the lives of so many, but is there a limit?

Children across the world are being introduced to electronics earlier and earlier. In any store you’ll see an infant not yet old enough to pick up a spoon glued to an IPad. In any restaurant you will find a young family in their own little worlds, on their own little devices.

The terrifying truth is that people are immersed in a dangerous world available to all with the touch of a button. What is the most terrifying, is that this small little screen is costing millions their relationships, their sanity, and even their lives.

You may now roll your eyes in this seemingly polarized, obnoxious perception of what many consider a daily necessity. Before you leave, let me explain. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, individuals aged 8-18 spend over seven hours per day looking at screens.

Kids don’t need much to be happy. Food, love, activity, and a good night’s sleep. With all this, a child will certainly be a happy camper. However, as any parent knows, take away something and you’ve got yourself a screaming mess of a human. When any person, especially a child, looks at electronics before bed, or much in general, their sleep schedule will undoubtedly be disturbed.

Psychologically speaking, screen time induces what many call “fight or flight response.” This stimulates the child, keeping them wide-eyed and full of unnecessary adrenaline. Even doing something low-key on the electronics induces a high heart rate and blood pressure; sleeping in this state is not easy. The brain will then be accustomed to electronics and will misconstrue them as actual threats. In a developing brain such extreme changes can be catastrophic.

Not to mention how exhausted kids can be, screen time alters their sleep schedule and instigates insomnia. The National Sleep Foundation explains that, “the increasing prevalence of electronics in children’s bedrooms creates a culture of evening engagement and light exposure that negatively impacts sleep time, sleep quality and daytime alertness.”

As previously mentioned, the quality and quantity of social interactions can be altered. When’s the last time you went somewhere with your friends and actually did something and talked; talked about something other than television or memes or the internet? When you were just being a kid? Many children find that the entirety of their lives revolve around their electronics. They talk about memes and spend excessive amounts of time on social media.

A study performed on 106 sixth graders in Southern California exhibited how detrimental electronics can be to a child’s development. They split the children into two groups, half spending time on electronic devices, half spending time in nature. The children in nature did substantially better with face to face interactions. The other half were not as social and isolated themselves. The HCA (Health Care of America) explains that children under two years of age should not be exposed to electronics and that the remainder of children should have limited access.  

This obsession can lead to addiction. Many children will go into actual withdrawal when deprived of their precious electronics. However, this is yet to be considered a serious addiction. These issues will cause adolescents to be developmentally behind in social aspects. This corrupts them of the ability to enter the real word and fend for themselves someday.

Anxiety in children is rising substantially, 18.1% of people in the United States are suffering from anxiety, which amounts to over 40 million. The numbers continue to increase. A 36% increase in sufferers occured between 2016 and 2017 alone. With no one immune to this epidemic. “Increases in anxiety were common to both men and women, and were seen across people of different race/ethnicity and of different ages,” according to Peter Dockrill about a study in early 2018. He elaborates, explaining that the younger generations are more prone to anxiety.

It’s impossible not to wonder why. Why did anxiety skyrocket around the time technology became a crucial part of our lives? Psychologist, Dr. Jon Elhai explains how problematic electronics are in respects to all aspects of mental health. They cause and enhance the symptoms of preexisting anxiety, depression, ADHD, ADD, and more.

“Researchers found that smartphone use was in fact associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as increased experience of stress”.

People spend time on their electronics on social media witnessing people living “perfect” lives. They experience FOMO (the fear of missing out), this spikes anxiety, especially depression, and self-image issues.

Mental health is not the only kind of health affected. It also affects physical health. This is because sitting all day on Netflix can lead to obesity due to a lack of movement.

Intelligence can also be affected by the usage of electronic devices. Psychology Today explains how too much screen time is detrimental to the brain and can cause severe damage. As previously stated, children are experiencing addictions.

“Studies show internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision making, and cognitive control,” explain researchers for Psychology Today.

Studies also show that not only does screen time affect a child emotionally, but it can actually affect the physical structure of the brain. It damages grey matter, white matter, and reduces cortical thickness. This makes cognitive tasks extremely difficult and having this issue can result in school becoming more difficult.

Have you ever talked to your grandparents about their childhoods? They played outside and learned about what they needed to learn as it became relevant. These days, however, more and more children are being corrupted of their innocence at an extremely young age. Kids read about adult concepts online and become opinionated on adult matters, such as politics, at very young ages.

Kids playing video games also corrupts them by teaching them about violence. Having those violent images in their head can create more anxiety.

With 93% of youth online, online bullying and virtual sexual activity is increased. Teens engage in an activity deemed as “sexting.” This behavior can be detrimental to them when they release harmful photographs out in the world. Bullying occurs to these children as these photos are shared. It occurs with younger children as well, just in different ways. About 24% of individuals are reported to have been bullied online.

Parents worldwide are struggling. Tracy Charette, a local parent, struggles with this very issue. Her middle-school aged daughter is borderline obsessed. “Although we impose rules to our daughter’s screen time, we often fail to enforce them. [We] believe her usage is much more than it should be”.

All of these statistics point to the same conclusion. Technology, as helpful as it has been in our society, has no place in the hand of a child. They are not ready emotionally, developmentally, or even physically, to handle it.

The fact is, if this is how the youth is now, the damages can surely get worse. The question is, what life do you want for your children? A life of harassment, obesity, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and isolation? Or maybe we can try to stop this vicious cycle. Realize that children should not be exposed to technology, or at least not often.

So, turn off the phone, log off Facebook, and interact with the people around you. Take a walk outside. It is actually a pretty amazing world we have out there. Try and experience it.