The dig­i­tal age has many ben­e­fits, but have we con­sid­ered the pos­si­ble neg­a­tive effects of increas­ing amounts of screen time in our dai­ly lives?

When experts talk about the dig­i­tal – or cyber – world, they could be refer­ring to any­thing tech: arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, the inter­net, vir­tu­al real­i­ty, mobile phones, gam­ing or oth­er net­worked devices. In this case, we are refer­ring to the kind of social media avail­able on mobile devices, such as smart­phones, tablets and laptops.

These devices have become ubiq­ui­tous in the mod­ern world, our con­stant com­pan­ions on planes, trains and cars. In fact the lat­est research by glob­al social media agency We Are Social shows that, in South Africa, peo­ple spend an aver­age of eight hours a day online.

While dig­i­tal skills have become a pre­req­ui­site in the mod­ern work­ing world, it’s worth con­sid­er­ing: how much screen time is too much? And, when it comes to chil­dren, can too much time online harm healthy development?

The Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Pedi­atrics (AAP) cer­tain­ly thinks so.

In its lat­est guide­lines on chil­dren and dig­i­tal media, the acad­e­my rec­om­mend­ed that chil­dren younger than 18 months should have no screen time at all (oth­er than video chat­ting). The AAP says chil­dren between the ages of two and five should spend no more than an hour a day on screens.

It has also rec­om­mend­ed that chil­dren old­er than six years old have con­sis­tent time lim­its that ensure they’re get­ting ade­quate sleep and phys­i­cal activ­i­ty. In addi­tion, par­ents should des­ig­nate media-free times (such as dur­ing din­ner or on car trips) and media-free zones in the house (such as bedrooms).

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Smart­phones offer a world at our fin­ger­tips. But should we real­ly immerse our­selves in that world? Image cred­it: Pix­abay

But there is debate over their findings. 

Oxford researchers have dis­missed this advice as being too restric­tive, and the AAP has acknowl­edged that a one-size-fits-all approach may not work for every fam­i­ly. If you don’t agree with the guide­lines, they say, then cre­ate a fami­ly media use plan to work out where the lim­its should be for your fam­i­ly. Find the tem­plate here.

Great advice if you’re aware of it, but what if you’re not? And even if you’re lim­it­ing your screen time, are you behav­ing safe­ly in the online space? And what about dig­i­tal addiction? 

As the ubiq­ui­ty of tech­nol­o­gy increas­es, dig­i­tal addic­tion is being recog­nised as a grow­ing men­tal health con­cern, and research into this phe­nom­e­non is evolv­ing rapid­ly. Here’s an excerpt from the find­ings of a study at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Brighton into dig­i­tal addic­tion:

Research attempt­ing to mea­sure the impact of dig­i­tal addic­tion is expand­ing: A study from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri report­ed that mea­sur­able increas­es in stress can be record­ed when peo­ple have their smart­phones tak­en away. There has even been a rise in clin­ics serv­ing dig­i­tal addicts, and increas­ing amount of per­son­al tes­ti­mo­ny from self-described addicts, as well as more firm­ly estab­lished evi­dence for repet­i­tive strain injuries aris­ing from overuse of tech­nol­o­gy. There are also seri­ous con­cerns that mobile phones alone can harm the par­ent-child bond and make addicts prone to mood swings and that inter­net addic­tion is resis­tant to treat­ment, entails sig­nif­i­cant risks and has high relapse rates.”

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Look before you leap. Have you thought about the effects of dig­i­tal addi­tion”? Image cred­it: Pix­abay

Want to know more?

Join us at the dig­i­tal addic­tion work­shop at Maropeng on Sat­ur­day 28 April 2018 from 9am to 11am to lis­ten to two experts explain­ing the tox­ic ele­ments of dig­i­tal addic­tion that can affect you, your fam­i­ly and your friends.

Behav­iour­al sci­en­tist Denise Bjork­man will intro­duce you to the neu­ro­science of dig­i­tal addic­tion, while media per­son­al­i­ty and psy­chol­o­gist Bradley Daniels will talk about the inter­ven­tions avail­able to han­dle the anx­i­ety and depres­sion that peo­ple of all ages can expe­ri­ence as a result of online activity. 

Bjork­man will be joined by clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, Bradley Daniels. Daniels has grad­u­ate school expe­ri­ence at New York Uni­ver­si­ty and has done exten­sive work with anx­i­ety and depres­sion. He will talk about these two con­di­tions as they relate to the dig­i­tal envi­ron­ment and sug­gest mean­ing­ful inter­ven­tions for change and per­son­al growth.

This event is free to the pub­lic. Email reception@​maropeng.​co.​za to book your seat.