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Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll

We’ve seen it before. The sight of children mesmerized by smart devices while their parents, the *ahem* adults, happily socialize with one another. Digital stimulation quietly keeps the kids entertained and, one could argue, can be beneficial in small doses, educational even. The situation certainly benefits the adults: it’s a welcome relief from active supervision. However, as adults, we also worry and wonder, “Gee, how will this tech-obsessed generation grow up? Will they have the necessary skills to properly socialize in the real world?”

A scarier question might be: “How is screen addiction impacting me and society right now — not the next generation?”

Jane Brody’s recent New York Times article, “Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children,” offers some powerful insights into the negative effects screen addiction has on children. The key takeaway being that for children to develop social skills, like any other learned skill, they must practice. And, the more hours spent staring at a screen mean less time spent developing that ever important skill: talking.

Brody warns:

“…as children have more of their communication through electronic media, and less of it face to face, they begin to feel more lonely and depressed.”
“Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.”

Brody’s article highlights many of the challenges faced by adolescents as they more tightly embrace technology. What is often a one-sided (i.e. a child pressing play, consuming, browsing, etc.) affair can limit ones’ ability to effectively interact dynamically with others.

“Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction.” — Jane Brody, NYTimes.

Possible counterweights to these trends, as Brody suggests, are: “Older children and teenagers should spend no more than one or two hours a day with entertainment media, preferably with high-quality content, and spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and ‘using their imaginations in free play.’ ”

Though the focus of Brody’s article centers on children and future generations, SayMore believes the same argument for spending more time unplugged applies equally to current adults. The SayMore team readily admits we are guilty of screen addiction, too — probably more so than the general public. We see the impact it has on our lives, in some ways positive and in other ways negative. We sneak in a quick email during lunch, respond to texts while driving, and browse the internet before bed. We enjoy the productivity and entertainment benefits of technology but are also keenly aware that it needs to be balanced with human interaction.

Real conversations with our friends, family and strangers alike are irreplaceable and have fueled our desire to build SayMore. We are inspired to create a new avenue for humans to connect through conversation (ironically using technology to combat some of the negative effects of technology itself). Talking is such a unique human function. It’s the most efficient way to share information, express emotions and connect authentically.

So the next time you pull out your smart device, consider whether you can satisfy those social desires through personal, human interaction. And in the event you feel compelled to look at your screen, don’t just stare at it, pick up the phone and talk to someone instead.

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