Media Use with Youth
Today’s youth are growing up in a world of technology/digital media. Technology has its positives and negatives as it affects our youth. It is available over many different platforms such as gaming consoles, TV, smartphones, VR headsets, computers, etc.
Media affects how we feel, think, learn and behave. Children’s brains are not fully developed so media plays a significant role in youths cognitive ability, emotional regulation, learning, and behavior.
Research shows that adolescents aged 8-12 spend an average of 5 hours a day on some form of media platform and teens spend an average of 8 hours a day (common sense media/nonprofit research organization) ( The New York Times, 2022).
Downfall of Too Much Media use
Overuse of digital media can lead to kids not getting enough sleep, struggles with social skills, delays in learning, obesity, behavior problems, and decline in school performance.
When kids do not get enough sleep, it can lead to poor school performance. If a child is allowed to utilize screens at night without restriction or supervision, they are likely to get less sleep because they are going to bed later. If children and teens are allowed to use media platforms while doing homework, they are more likely to have issues in school performance by not grasping the material they are working on as their attention is not fully on their homework.
Kids can develop problems with social skills from too much screen time due to not interacting verbally with those in their home as well as not engaging in activities with friends that allow for interaction because they are playing video games or watching TV.
Too much media can lead to poor attention span and poor language skills. Hyperactivity can also be linked to digital media use (Pubmed, Wallace, Boers, Ouellet, Afzali, Conrod, 2023).
Obesity can develop from too much screen time because there is less time spent in physical activity.
Behavior problems can develop in children who are exposed to too much media as they could be trying to mimic what they see if witnessing inappropriate or violent content and due to the fact of them being overstimulated. Overstimulation from screens can cause impairment in judgment of an underdeveloped brain and manifest as behavioral issues.
Extended use of constant video games or digital media can lead to depression from isolation from others, lack of ability to engage with others, lack of social skills, and a decline in interest in other activities.
It is our job as the parents/guardians to limit exposure to screen time. Your children need human interaction on a consistent daily basis and time spent with them just talking. It is vital to their mental health and brain development. It will allow for them to explore, utilize their creativity, and engage more with others. For example, when out to dinner with your family, spend the time talking and interacting with one another instead of being on some form of electronic device.
When grocery shopping with your children, talk to them and interact. Especially in very young children, tell them what you are doing and what you are seeing.
Interaction without devices is vital for their emotional and cognitive growth and development.
What To Do
It is helpful to develop a plan for media use for your family. When your children are young, it is best to co view the content they are viewing, engage in conversations with your children on internet safety, limit playing time of games, have media free times throughout the day, and engage in other family activities such as reading, board games, sports, etc.
Encourage your kids to engage in other activities that do not involve a screen, such as encouraging them to go outside. If you often hear or find yourself saying “My generation was always outside, we came home when the street lights came on. We didn’t sit in front of a screen,” then it is our responsibility as parents/guardians to encourage the outdoors and other activities for our kids. Just because we live in a digital world, does not mean we have to saturate ourselves with it or limit exposure to other areas of life.
Encourage your family and your children to turn off screens, limit time spent on digital platforms, and interact with each other in a healthy manner. When there is constant stimulation from screens, it is hard for kids to find enjoyment in other things so remember limiting their time on digital platforms will allow for them to grow, mature, learn, and utilize their imagination.