Teens on Tech
Every family has struggled with the smartphone dilemma: It's great when you want the kids occupied, i.e., long rides, when you're busy and you don't want to be interrupted or when you want to give them a present that truly makes them happy, after all, they can't be the only ones without one. They're also great for doing homework on, for finding incredible resources for research (even the library of congress is in the palm of our hand!), and for connecting with friends and fellow students to collaborate. Our kids literally have, at their fingertips, more information than past presidents have had: scroll down for the awesome infographic on this topic. The internet has leveled the playing field for anyone who wants to become an expert on topics. It is here to stay.
The dark-side is that teens (and adults) are increasingly compulsive when it comes to smartphone use.
"Teens are spending more than one-third of their days using media such as online video or music — nearly nine hours on average, according to a new study from the family technology education non-profit group, Common Sense Media. For tweens, those between the ages of 8 and 12, the average is nearly six hours per day."
Criteria for problematic cellphone use include:
- Problems and conscious use in dangerous situations or in prohibited contexts.
- Social and family conflicts and confrontations, as well as loss of interest in other activities.
- Continuing behavior despite the negative effects and or personal malaise it causes.
- Harm, physical, mental, social, work or family disturbances.
- Difficulty of controlling use.
- Frequent and constant checking of phone in very brief periods of time with insomnia and sleep disturbances.
Signs of tolerance:
- Increase in use to achieve satisfaction or relaxation or to counteract a dysphoric mood.
- Excessive use, urgency, need to be connected.
- Need to respond immediately to messages, preferring the cell phone to personal contact.
- Abstinence, dependence, craving.
- Anxiety, irritability if cell phone is not accessible.
- Feelings of unease when unable to use it.
For full article:
De-Sola Gutiérrez J, Rodríguez de Fonseca F, Rubio G. Cell-Phone Addiction: A Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2016;7:175. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00175.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5076301/table/T1/
Our Bodies on Smartphones
We don't fully understand the effects of smartphones on our brains, however, recent studies have shown that there are changes in problematic compulsive users.
"The results demonstrated that SPD (smartphone dependence) is characterized by white matter changes in brain regions involved in motion, sensation, executive functions and emotional processing." (Hu Y, Long X, Lyu H, Zhou Y and Chen J (2017) Alterations in White Matter Integrity in Young Adults with Smartphone Dependence. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 11:532. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00532)
However, the study is limited in that the authors did not know whether the white matter changes were caused by smartphone dependence or if the subjects were more at risk because they had these variations in the first place.
Cell phones have SAR specific absorption rate; a measure of the rate of RF (radiofrequency) energy absorption by the body.
Check here for what it means to you: http://transition.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/sar.pdf
There's been a number of studies on how SAR affects sperm motility and recommends that men might consider leaving phone out of trouser pockets: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4074720/
Although it is still controversial, there is concern that cell phone use can increase the risks of certain cancers.
Smartphone compulsive users slept on average 5.18 hours versus the controls 7.43 hours. This could be related to notifications, alerts, as well as checking throughout the night due to stimulation resulting in poor sleep quality. In one study, the suppression of melatonin (sleep hormone) from the blue light delayed sleep onset time 2x longer than coffee. (Burke et. al., 2015)
Let's face it, smartphones are here to stay. We need to get smart about smartphones!
Open, honest, conversations backed by scientific knowledge is the best way to change anyone's brains and behavior. Understanding the risks, how it affects our brains and bodies, can influence teen behavior. Start talking at a very young age.
Involve the kids in setting up their tech time, within reason.
Have a firm rule of leaving devices out of the bedroom. Bedrooms are for sleeping only.
Have a cutoff switch for wifi (though kids can mooch off neighbors' wifi).
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
No screens for any children under the age of 2. Including passive screen time (e.g. they're in the room while you're watching a screen).