We have all heard, “technology is our friend.” It is true. The positive attributes of modern technology are endless. It has saved lives, increased our security, enhanced motorization, provided global communication (as well as exploration into the unknown) and much more. Humanity continues to profit from its many gifts and luxuries.
Everywhere you look, you see an electronic device or gadget. Joggers, hikers and bicyclists wear earbuds or Fitbits while exercising; motorists talk hands-free; cars brake, park and reverse by themselves; and houses control their own lighting, heat and security. Infants play on tablets, kindergarten kids operate computers better than their parents do, elementary students have smartphones, preteens are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and TikTok … the list goes on.
Stores offer free Wi-Fi, cafes are places to type instead of talk and libraries have more people using computers than checking out books. Participants at family functions or social outings are glued to their mobile phones. Life has become a never-ending sea of artificial lights, buttons, sounds and electronic wavelengths.
COVID-19 has brought us one step closer on this course to a sci-fi cyber lifestyle. The recent lockdown expanded the existing seldom-used online doors, and made us aware of how accessible life can be from the comfort and safety of our homes.
We can do anything—shop online, work from home, run internet-based businesses, stream new releases, video chat with friends and family, continue our education and virtually experience worldly amusements, wonders and special events such as weddings.
We can now even virtually tour real estate before a purchase. The ‘net has kept the world turning and its citizens sane.
Is this healthy?
However, what we need to ask ourselves is, is this overuse of technology healthy? No, it is not. We have become addicted, and as with most addictions, there are risks. Apart from the possible radiation factor that comes with the use of electronic devices (though, as of yet, experts cannot give us a precise level of exposure), other mental and physical health problems arise from the use of technology.
As a mother, I have always paid close attention to the countless studies that document the ill effects that the overuse of technology has on the developing brain. Children and young adults who are addicted to electronics are more prone to obesity, acne, aggressive behaviour, depression, anxiety and under-developed cognitive functions, such as imagination, impulse control, attention, concentration, problem-solving skills, visualization and patience.
These children no longer properly function in the world around them, and in some cases, this can have deadly results. These are the minds of the future, the superior race.
Science has shown that our species’ basic life skills, survival traits and social interaction capabilities have diminished. The ingenuity it took to develop the life-changing technology we have today has begun to lose the intuitive, imaginative or cognitive ability it needs for such innovation.
Life has become too easy. Our youth isn’t challenged enough. I watched an episode of Ellen during which Ellen DeGeneres asked a millennial to refold a map, find a phone number in the Yellow Pages and then dial the number on a turn-dial phone. The girl couldn’t do it!
There is hope. I know it is easier said than done, due to adolescent tantrums, but parents need to limit screen time to help ensure their child has a healthier development. It may sound old-fashioned, but you can make them read books, create crafts or artwork, use their imagination through play and explore the outdoors, instead of allowing them to watch TV all day or shock their retinas with video game marathons.
Let them get bored, as they will eventually figure out something to do, and in the end, it will be healthier for them.
Lead by example
For new parents or those with young kids, this will be easier. Set limits now, whether it is with an app, by turning off the Wi-Fi or by using a parental online locking system. Make screen time a luxury, a treat your child earns, not an aspect of their daily routine.
These tools will also work for parents who are already dealing with electronic addiction. The key here is baby steps. Gradually reduce your child’s use until you achieve your goal. Don’t give in to the tantrums. However, don’t forget the proverbial saying, “monkey see, monkey do.” If you want your kids to abstain from the overuse of technology, don’t let them catch you doing it. Lead by example.
Adults experience the same effects children do, though we may not realize it. Have you ever seen a friend or family member become hysterical because they misplaced their smartphone? I have, countless times.
Technology addiction affects us, both mentally and physically. Similar to the younger generation, adults experience a wide variety of emotional side-effects from the overuse of electronics, such as stress, anxiety, depression, distraction, the expectation of instant gratification, narcissism and so on—sometimes, to the extent that we feel phantom vibrations or think we hear calls.
We seem to be forever paranoid that we may miss something if we are parted from our device. It is a mental crutch as debilitating as alcoholism or drug abuse.
The physical repercussions are no less daunting. It is obvious that the more we sit around entertained by electronics, the less we do, which causes us to gain weight and lose muscle tone. The overuse of technology can also lead to vision problems, headaches, hearing loss, back and neck strain, tendonitis of the thumb, carpal tunnel syndrome and insomnia (due to the reduction in melatonin from the artificial light). It doesn’t end there.
We need to unplug
Thanks to COVID-19, we have become major germophobes, for good reason. Have you ever thought about how much bacteria and other foreign bodies live on your smartphone or your other handheld electronics? A lot!
Think about it, we take them everywhere with us (especially our cell phones), and do not wash our hands every time before use. They are germ kingdoms. By now, we all know that the combination of soap and water is the best defense against germs, but you cannot exactly give your cell phone a bath, can you? Water and technology don’t mix. Therefore, there is always the possibility of contamination.
I bet making your device a fifth appendage doesn’t sound so appealing now, does it?
There is a solution!
We need to unplug. I’m not saying to abstain from technology altogether. Absolutely not! Technology is an asset, especially in these troubled times. Just limit your use, even if it is only for an hour a day.
Begin simply and build your resilience up slowly, by trying the following things:
- Turn your cell phone off at night
- Limit the hours you and your children spend online or watching television
- Read an actual book instead of choosing an ebook or listening to an audio file
- Write a letter rather than sending an email
- Use the mirrors on your vehicle, not the backup camera
- In general, do more yourself instead of relying on technology
This all may seem like quite the feat, with the pandemic still lurking. It probably seems like the wrong time to withdraw from the online craze, but it is for that exact reason we need to, before it is too late.
Let’s not make the Axiom from Wall-E a reality, people. Lessen your dependency on technology and improve your health and cognitive functions. Don’t let the addiction settle in. Reconnect with the natural world around you, your community and most of all, yourself. In the end, I do believe you will feel more relaxed, happier and most of all, healthier.
Bhat, J. (n.d) “The effects of screens on kids and how to set limits,” Find a Psychologist.
Johnson, J. (February 25, 2020) “Negative effects of technology: what to know,” Medical News Today.
Greenwood, C. (August 23, 2019) “9 subtle ways technology is making humanity worse,” Business Insider.
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