A few months ago, my phone required a reset in hopes it would respond better to its master. Afterward, I realized that all my notifications had been turned off.
No little red bubbles reminded me that someone had liked my Facebook post or retweeted my genius. I started to turn them on again, but then . . . I didn’t.
And I haven’t since.
I realized I was tired of 24/7 availability.
While we wring our hands trying to figure out how to help our children avoid electronic screen addiction, most of us have to admit it’s not only a problem for young people. Our buzzing, chirping, dinging world affects everyone—and families can work together to make themselves less slavish to its electronic siren songs.
Research would suggest that we start.
Researchers conducted a series of experiments with volunteers aged 18 to 77, requiring them to sit alone for fifteen minutes with no outside stimulation. Over half of the participants disliked being alone with their thoughts so much that they gave themselves mild electric shocks as a distraction during the 15-minute session of quiet thinking.
The average American spends a little over ten hours a day looking at screens—leaving precious little time for human interaction and play, two of the healthiest things we can do. That’s more than equivalent to a full time job.
Of course, some of that time is our jobs—I feel attached to this MacBook more hours than I like to admit, because screens are my job, but they’re also my addiction, if I’m totally honest. I should put them down after five—but I don’t always.
On a test of electronic addiction, I scored “moderately addicted.” Seeing that kind of statistic for myself isn’t OK, and it’s worse for our kids.
Expert psychiatrist Victoria Dunckley has created a test to see if we can spot the signs of screen addiction, with questions like:
Does your child become irritable when told it’s time to stop playing video games or to get off the computer?
Do you ever feel your child is not as happy as he or she should be, or is not enjoying activities as much as he or she used to?
Does your child prefer socializing online over face-to-face interactions?