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6 Reasons for Teens to Unplug & Leave Social Media at Home

These are the basic facts of being a teenager at this point in history. Today, on average children spend 5 to 6 hours a day staring at screens and they are often on two screens at once. Studies have shown that excessive screen time can lead to obesity, sleep disorders, and  aggression. Few know that the late Apple boss Steve Jobs didn’t let his own children have an iPad. The earlier kids are hooked on screens, the more difficult it is to wean them off.

In 2012, just 6 years after Facebook arrived here, it was the favorite website of 10-year-old girls…while the minimum age is 13. 2012 was the exact moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent. Those born between 1995 and today do not remember a time without the internet. By 2017 surveys of more than 5,000 American teens found that 3 out of 4 owned an iPhone.

The Effects of Social Media on Teens

The arrival of the smartphone and social media has radically changed every aspect of teenagers lives from social interactions to mental health in every corner of the nation; regardless of social status. 54% of millennials told time researchers they were more comfortable texting people than talking with them.

Per Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and author of The Big Disconnect said, “There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. In a way, texting and online communicating—it’s not like it creates a nonverbal learning disability, but it puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.”

Due to this fact, the Army is considering prolonging the amount of time drill sergeants spend with new soldiers during basic training. “The problem that we do have is that right now the generation we have coming in is not as disciplined as we would like them to be,” said an Army Spokesman. “So we have to provide them with discipline over a longer period of time.”

The effects social media has had on teens is undeniable, so it is crucial for parents to be aware of the impact it has. Here are 6 reasons why teens should put their phones down, turn off their computers, and reconnect.

1. Hangouts are no longer face-to-face

Today’s teens may go to few parties and spend less time together in person, but when they do congregate, they document their hangouts relentlessly on Snapchat, Instagram & Facebook. Those not invited are keenly aware of it.  Accordingly, the number of teens feeling left out has reached all-time highs, coupled with overwhelming feelings of loneliness. 8% more girls say they often feel left out in 2015 than in 2010 compared with 27% more boys.

2. Addictive use of social media leads to sleep deprivation

The Smart Phone is also cutting into teens’ sleep. Two national surveys show that teens who spend three hours or more on social media are 28% more likely to get less than 7 hours of sleep than those that spend less than that.

3. Social media encourages a sedentary lifestyle

Even before the iPad hit the markets in 2010, experts were warning that 80% of children arrived at school with poor co-ordination due to a sedentary lifestyle. Research found that 10% of children under 4 are put to bed with a tablet computer to play with as they fall asleep. iPads are becoming the modern-day equivalent of a comfort blanket.

4. Depression and suicide in teens has increased

Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. We can see that our young people today are on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades and most of this deterioration can be traced to their phones. The rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives and making them seriously unhappy.

Screen activities are linked to less happiness and off-screen activities are linked to more happiness. The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression.  8th graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly. Teens who spend three hours a day or more on an electronic device are 35% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.

5.  Overuse of social media impacts brain development

Journalist Nicholas Carr charted the effect that internet is having on our brains in his book “The Shallows” in 2010. “Our ability to learn can be severely compromised when our brains become overloaded with diverse stimuli online,” he writes. “More information can mean less knowledge.” “Worse,” says Carr, “digital overload makes it harder to distinguish relevant information from irrelevant information, signal from noise. In computing terms, garbage in, garbage out. In human terms, millennials think that if it’s not online it doesn’t exist.”

6. There is a greater risk of distracted driving

With an increase in social media and smartphone use, we have also seen an increase in distracted driving among teenagers.

Texting & Driving Reminders for all of us

  • 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
  • Texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk.
  • Answering a text takes away your attention for about five seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field.

Teen Facts

  • Researchers at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park estimate more than 3,000 annual teen deaths nationwide from texting and 300,000 injuries.
  • The habit now surpasses the number of teens who drink and drive — a hazard that has been on a dramatic decline in recent years, researchers say.
  • Teen drivers are 4x more likely than adults to get into car crashes or near-crashes when talking or texting on a cell phone.
  • A teen driver with only one additional passenger doubles the risk of getting into a fatal car accident. With two or more passengers, they are 5x as likely.

What Can You Do?

Be “unplugged” for 1 hour a day = no screen time. Most group leaders bringing their youth to camp collect all electronic devices prior to departure and do not return them until they arrive back home.  Youths are forced to interact with each other and to bond emotionally.

Reassert the relevance of flesh and blood relationships – put your phone down, turn off your computer. Do things together as a family. Do anything that DOES NOT INVOLVE A SCREEN! At camp, there are always places to sit and talk, play a team sport, or walk and enjoy the beauty of nature itself.

Studies show you are viewed as more intelligent if you talk to someone over the phone rather than have a conversation over texting. Fight for your privacy and help your kids do that too. Set boundaries.

Sending your child to camp is an excellent way to build interests in healthy, interesting activities that do not involve a screen of any sort.  Adventure sports such as zip lining, rock climbing or the newest rage, elevated obstacle courses, fill that need for adrenaline and work the muscles that an electronic device can’t address. Nature studies, archery, and orienteering can encourage a lifelong love of God’s creation. Look into a camp or retreat center that offers more than the regular daily doldrums. Your children will thank you in the long run.

Sheila Hurst is a lifelong resident of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She lives with her husband Shawn in Lititz, PA.  Sheila serves as the Youth Leader with her husband at DOVE Westgate Church in Ephrata, PA and is studying cosmetology.