Teenage Media Addiction

29 08 2009

Children of the Screen

As much as I like FaceBook and text messaging, I know that it needs to be limited a great deal in my life.  Like so many things, I have learned over the years to balance good things like FB and texting so that they don’t take up all my time and energy.  In fact, for most adults, we know our limits, whether it’s ice cream, television, shopping, or wine.  We may blow it now and then, but we learn to balance, or else it consumes us and we suffer in the long-run.

Unfortunately, teens and preteens are not very good at balancing the good things in their lives. I remember coming home from high school football practice and eating an entire large bag of Doritos and a couple bottles of Yoo-Hoo as a snack.  I remember watching three movies in a row on summer nights.  I remember playing video games for five hours straight.  And this was not at all unusual for me or for my friends.  Kids, by nature, are much more impulsive, much less logical, and much less educated about the consequences of their behavior.  They do because they can, and they don’t truly believe that there can be too much of a good thing.

cell girl

Here is an article which describes the addiction of texting and Facebook in the lives of so many teens.  It’s worth reading.  Click here

This is where we, the adults, need to get involved and discuss the consequences of electronic addictions.  We need to provide leadership.

First, we need to understand the power of teenage addictions – that teens are far more prone to addictive behavior, and their brains record those good feelings intensely and permanently.  It sets the default buttons in the brain, so that when the child grows older, those addictions come back again and again.  In other words, a teen who is addicted to something will feel that pull toward that particular addiction throughout his or her life.

Second, we need to talk with kids about the importance of face-to-face communication in every relationship, but especially in the most important ones: marriage, friendship, parenting, career.  And we can make sure that we are having those face-to-face discussion with them everyday.

Third, we need to set age-appropriate limits on what our children are consuming, whether it’s texting or Twinkies.  The goal is to provide the child with more and more freedom, as they exhibit more and more self-control and responsibility.  Talk with other parents whom you respect, and get their opinions about how they limit and train their kids in this area of life.

A few years ago I heard someone on the radio refer to this generation of teens as the “children of the screen.”  (I think the source is here).  The idea is that kids are spending the majority of their free time in front of electronic screens: television, movies, computer monitor, cell phone, video games, iPod, and more.  The hours per day are staggering.  Some studies account that the average teen spends 40 hours per week in front of a screen. Click here for more on that.  Sadly, I don’t doubt that stat at all.

Some teens will even go to bed with their cell phone under their pillow, just in case they get a text message, a FaceBook notification, or feel the need to check something on the internet.  The marketers love this (read related article).

I hope it’s just a fad.  But I fear that these kids will grow up with strong “virtual relationship skills” yet will lack face-to-face interpersonal skills and realistic relationship expectations.  I fear that they will be dependent on an electronic screen to be their interface with the real world. And I am afraid that this will cripple their ability to establish a wide variety of healthy relationships.  I envision that hooking up and breaking up via text message will be the norm and that “friends” will be accepted and dropped with the click of a button.  I hope my fears are all wrong.

I suppose the best solution is to get out with our kids and make some memories with real people in the real world as much as possible.  Go fishing, camping, or biking.  Take a road trip to see a concert or a sports team in a nearby city.  But you might want to avoid going to a Dallas Cowboys football game.  It ahs the world’s largest high-definition television screen, suspended above the field, from 20 yead line to 20 yard line.  It measures 160 feet wide and 72 feet tall and cost $40 million.  They say most of the people in the stadium just watch the screen most of the time.  Hmmm.


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