Could Technology Be Too Much of a Good Thing?
Could Technology Be Too Much of A Good Thing?
There’s no denying that technology has become an inseparable part of our lives. Whether we are at home, in the office, at school, or on vacation–the scenery is the same. We’re constantly on our phones. But is more technology better? And what effect does it have on our children?
Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, a licensed psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety, OCD, depression, and related conditions, argues that staying connected with technology all the time isn’t such a good idea.
Especially for teens.
Parents Are Concerned
As a psychologist, parents look to Gillihan for advice on their teen’s smartphone addiction. “Parents will tell me [technology] is cutting into their kid’s homework; in the middle of the night, kids will have the phone.” Even with a rule limiting use of their phone during bedtime, kids have a tendency to sneak the phone into their room. Gillihan warns, “Sometimes there’s no break to it. It can even disrupt sleep, which is usually in short supply among teens.”
But even without parents voicing their concern, Gillihan can see the effect for himself. “When I am working with teenagers in my office and ask them to put the phone away, they still check all the pings they’re getting even during a one hour a week session,” Gillihan says. “And even if they are not answering, it’s still a distraction for them because the constant buzzes and beeps take away their attention. So I have to ask them to turn it off, but if I get up to get a form or something, they go back to their phones. There’s this constant sense of needing to be connected to technology.”
Why do teens feel so glued to the apps of Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat?
“Social media is designed to feed addiction,” Gillihan says. “If I post something on social media, I start getting likes, there’s a reward that’s built into that, a shot of dopamine, and that reward is reinforcing.”
The Consequences Of Too Much Technology
“Studies show that we tend to feel less content after being on social media, because of that feeling of our lives being not as attractive as those of others, and the fears of missing out,” Gillihan says. “Teenagers feel a need to be a part of it or else they would be left out of the loop.”
Besides the psychological, teens’ addictions to their phones can lead to problems with their physical well-being.
“Teenagers might exercise less because they might not have access to their phones when they are exercising, or they may be on their phones when they’re biking, which can be a real safety issue.”
It would be foolish for parents to assume that their children are not addicted to technology. There are often plenty of signs that parents ignore as a passing phase.
“[Parents] need to be on the lookout for problematic behaviors, and consider the possibility that some problem may be related to use of technology,” Gillihan says. “At some point, we have to stop relying on willpower, and may need to set limits on technology use.”
As much as we would like to believe that our children always tell us the truth, their addiction and fear of having their phone searched or confiscated can make them behave in unpredictable ways.
“If a child takes a phone into bedroom, and sleeps with it in the room, it’ll probably be used during the night,” Gillihan says. “If a teen tells you, ‘I have it in my room, but I don’t use it’ then it’s probably a half truth at best. If a teen says ‘I just have it to check the time in the middle of the night’, then buy an alarm clock.”
Teenagers must understand the expectations that come along with the ownership of a connected device. Parents can lay the groundwork for responsible cell phone use by setting basic rules for their children.
“When I work with parents, we often talk about enforcing limits around tech use,” Gillihan says. “I am a proponent of setting limits that are actually enforceable. If you say, here’s your phone, don’t be on it, it’s a setup for failure, it won’t work.”
Gillihan encourages parents to lead by example and first overcome their own addiction to show their children that it’s okay to not to be connected on the phone all the time. “The phone is off or away when students are doing homework, or all family members have a parking area in the house where phones go before bedtime so no one has phones in the bedroom,” Gillihan says. “It’s better not to text your kid from home, within the house. Teach them respectful and responsible use of tech within the family, like no phones at the dinner table, or walking upstairs to ask for something vs. texting them.”
As with all things in life, moderation is the key when it comes to using technology. Parents need to guide their children so that they grow up to become responsible with all aspects of technology, including social media.