Posted on 16th October 2012
How much time do you spend looking at a screen? Count up the hours spent in front of a computer/laptop/iPad/phone or television. It’s probably longer than you thought, isn’t it?
Depending on your job and what you like to do in your spare time, the amount of time people spend behind a screen will vary massively, but I expect we could all do with a few more hours away from our computers.
Technology is everywhere and it is developing so fast we still aren’t totally sure about the impact it has on our minds and bodies. Although on the whole, studies say that it isn’t looking good, and experts are especially keen to reduce the amount of time children spend on computers and watching television.
Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman recently wrote a troubling article in the Archives of Disease in Childhood which said that children born today will have spent an entire year watching screens by the time they turn seven.
The average 10-year-old lives in a home where there are five screens, which means that they are literally surrounded by them which can lead to addiction and depression. Sigman pointed out that “In addition to the main family television, for example, many very young children have their own bedroom TV along with portable hand-held computer game consoles (eg, Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox), smartphone with games, internet and video, a family computer and a laptop and/or a tablet computer (eg iPad).” And, worryingly, “Children routinely engage in two or more forms of screen viewing at the same time, such as TV and laptop.”
Watching screens for a long period of time leads to a very sedentary lifestyle that may result in putting on weight and developing diabetes. Moreover, prolonged screen time has a chemical impact on the brain, producing greater levels of dopamine. It is the high levels of dopamine that lead to ‘screen addiction’. Watching a lot of television, and especially using laptops and watching television at the same time can reduce children’s attention span, which is very damaging indeed.
Although screens are an unavoidable part of modern life, and often necessary (a lot of teachers require homework to be done on a computer), we must be careful to ensure that we don’t end up with an entire generation of depressed screen addicts with limited attention spans. Parents should work out how much time their children spend watching television and set a reasonable limit. They should also encourage children to do non scree-related activities such as reading books, drawing, playing games and making things.