It is hard to refute the statement that we are now living in the great screenage. Screen-based devices are now a regular part of our day to day lives and have a monumental impact on the emerging generations.
The world that is shaping the next generation is constantly changing, with new technology is being created every year. Over 4.3 billion people now own a smartphone globally and in Australia, 20 million out of a population of 25.4 million people now own a smartphone.
So how are the next generation using tech devices and what are some of the impacts of this increased screen usage?
Consequences of rising screen time usage
While screens today are often used akin to a pacifier, the recommended screen-time for a child between the ages of 2 and 5 is no more than 1 hour a day. For 5-17-year old’s, it’s no more than 2 hours per day, according the Australian Department of Health.
Yet on average, kids between these ages spend up to 3.5 hours every weekday (Monday-Friday) using screen-based devices, which is almost equivalent to 40% of their total waking hours. On the weekend, this amount increases by about 20% to an average of about 4.5 hours a day.
While technology devices can be great enablers, recent studies show some of the consequences of over-exposure to screens. These include increased chance of obesity, poor performance at school or work, poor social skills, poor sleep and being more prone to depression and anxiety.
Social media –social or anti-social?
The rising number of hours and minutes we spend in front of devices is not helped by what seems like an unlimited number of apps at our fingertips, spurred on by the elusive promise that they will make us feel more connected. Young people in particular are choosing to stay connected via social media, which helps explain why screen-time is much higher on weekends.
With the increased risk of screentime negatively affecting children’s physical, social, psychological and cognitive health, the World Health Organisation recently advised parents to limit screen time to 1 hour a day for children under 5.
Even Silicon Valley elites, namely Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the world’s two biggest tech figures, restricted their own children’s use of technology. Gates did not give his children a mobile phone until they turned 14 and Jobs did not allow his kids use the iPad. Even top-tier Silicon Valley schools are surprisingly low-tech.[i]
What are the most popular apps?
WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, both with 1 billion plus downloads are the most popular messaging apps. Facebook continues to dominate social media, followed by YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.
All originally platforms built to share and connect with friends, they have now become the most powerful advertising and marketing platforms.
For the utility apps, it seems knowing where to go and having a means to get there is what people want as Uber and Google Maps top this list. While Amazon and eBay continue to dominate the online shopping app world.
If too much screen time is having a negative impact on the next generation, then parents and leaders need to respond. While Gen Z have grown up with these technologies literally at hand, screen-based devices don’t just affect those born since the mid-90s, they effect people of all ages.
Parents and leaders of young people need to model the responsible use of screen-based devices and social media, if they want the next generation to do the same.
Tracking your own and your child’s screen time and setting limits on time use is one practical way to reduce the amount of time kids are spending looking at a screen.
Ironically, there are even apps that now exist for tracking screen time, and which lock users out of certain apps after the max time limit is reached! Simply being aware of how much time and what apps children are spending their time on, and which days, is a positive step towards building healthy habits.
Encouraging children to get outside, explore, play, be in nature, and interact with friends will all increase their quality of life now and into adulthood. Best of all, the outdoors is free and there’s plenty of it!
[i] Business Insider Australia, Tech Insider.
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