Facebook, news apps, Snapchat – there’s endless temptation for bored teens to take out their smartphones and scroll.
The Washington Post recently wrote an in-depth piece on kids these days and their social media usage, and in it was this startling statistic, courtesy a 2015 study by the nonprofit group Common Sense Media: Teens are spending nearly nine hours a day consuming media.
And children ages eight to 12 are spending nearly six hours a day doing the same thing.
Let’s say the average teen wakes up at 7 a.m. and goes to bed at 10 p.m. — that means that nine of their 15 waking hours are spent on their phones, computers, or tablets. The rest of those six hours are likely spent in school.
To put that in perspective, that’s nearly double the time that the average American spends looking at their phones.
The kids themselves estimate they’re spending much less time looking at their screens. Another related Washington Post story “Who are these kids?” went inside the Center for Generational Kinetics, a consulting firm that studies Generation Z and spends time talking to teens and tweens about their phone habits. According to researchers at the firm, teens spend between two and five hours a day in front of screens.
This is all incredibly important, because screens could be changing the way our brains work. In one study, researchers found evidence that when small children became addicted to tablets or smartphones, it could impede their ability to focus, concentrate, and build a large vocabulary.
Tablets and smartphones may also make children more accustomed to constant stimuli, attention, and exposure, according to Psychology Today. And Dr. Victoria Dunckley, an integrative psychiatrist in Los Angeles, posits that screen time could be leading to “sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyperaroused nervous system,” or what she calls “electronic screen syndrome.”
But these studies are about children — what about the teens? Many teens are likely spending a majority of their screen time dedicated to social media usage, and this 2016 study in the journal of Anxiety Disorders Association of America found social media could be linked with increased depression.
Plus, the blue light smartphone screens emit can confuse our brains and stop them from producing melatonin, allowing us to become increasingly distracted, making it harder to sleep, and putting us at an increased risk for obesity as well as breast and prostate cancers.
So now that you’re done reading this article, turn off your phone.