Expert / 18 March, 2019 / My Baba
During the last decade, we have all grown accustomed to being online virtually 24/7 – using smartphones and tablets to browse social media, share ideas and gossip and more. It’s fun but is it healthy? A mounting body of evidence says ‘no’ and shows that adults and especially kids are at risk from significant side effects from prolonged use: issues include stress, anxiety, sleep issues, lowered self-esteem, cyberbullying and even a distorted view of reality.
The culprit here turns out to be the addictive designs used by tech giants such as Apple, Google, and Facebook to keep you and your kids riveted to the screen for as long as possible. Why? Because your attention is a valuable commodity that is being resold to advertisers to the tune of several hundred billion pounds annually.
Addictive design uses the same methods casinos use when designing slot machines –– an avalanche of notifications, emojis, buzzers, likes, scrolls, comparisons etc all carefully designed to keep you browsing by injecting itself into your cognitive system below your conscious level.
Most people don’t realise just how much impact smartphones and social media has had over the past 10 years, but the fact is that more than half of the world’s population now use social media. The resulting economy from sales of smartphones, tablets and not least the sale of your and your children’s attention to advertisers rivals the economy of mid-sized countries like Sweden or Holland. In essence, it is the largest social experiment ever undertaken and we have no clear idea where it will take us.
What we do know is that extensive use of smartphones and social media causes rewiring of children’s brains (a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity) and that the list of possible side effect includes stress, lowered self-esteem, FOMO (fear of missing out), decision fatigue, problems focusing and concentrating, sleep disturbances, cognitive dissonance, digital tribalism, lowered empathy and cyber-bullying.
Obviously, not every child using a smartphone is going to get hit by every single possible side effect but here are some signs that are worth watching out for:
What can you do if you begin observing some of these symptoms? It’s pretty simple, really (albeit not easy, mind you).
Yes, children are at risk but there is plenty you can do about it. It requires being observant and takes discipline on your part as well. But it is all well worth it because what you get in return is not just saving your kids from smartphone burnout but also spending more quality time with them. What’s not to like about that!
By Soren Kenner and Imran Rashid
Soren Kenner and Dr. Imran Rashid’s new book OFFLINE: Free your mind from smartphone and social media stress is out now, priced £12.99.