Plugged In

by | Sep 21, 2021

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal provided information pertaining to how Instagram was having a deleterious effect on teens (especially girls). While many have been concerned about the amount of screentime young people are engaging with, this particular article used inside documentation, from Facebook (owner of Instagram), for most of its background.

Those of us who can recall days before cell phones remember times when going out for dinner did not include members of your party texting or checking for calls. We (they) can also recall reading newspapers, socializing (mostly) in-person and having no such thing as cyber bullying. No, I am not talking about days long gone as Camelot. I am also acknowledging being a semi-luddite whose technological acumen may have stopped with the Gutenberg Press. While these may be true, there is a point to be made. We really have to look at how technology has impacted our mental states. 

Without question computers have provided us with many significant advancements in medicine, science and communications. They have also, for better or worse, impacted how we date, vote, engage in friendships, gather information, read, write, listen to music, etc., etc. Are we better off? Many will say yes. Have we lost something? Perhaps this might be so. In the end, we are still sorting things out. One thing is certain – we sure stare at screens a lot.

Parents and caregivers of children can play an important role in how young people engage with technology. Obviously, modeling behavior is one way. Another might be having open discussions as well as setting limits. Technology is not going away. Somehow, we need to find ways to support kids in making good choices regarding their screen time.

The Covid-19 pandemic has stressed us in many ways. A number of students saw their learning, extracurricular activities and friendships placed at a distance. To compensate, additional usage of technology came into play. Because of this, statistics indicate a rise in stress related conditions and substance use among teens.  The jury is out regarding long-lasting impacts.

It should be noted that the school year in East Greenwich has gotten off to a good start. Most students are enjoying their studies as well as being able to engage with peers more frequently. We should continue our efforts to promote social and emotional learning (considering that Covid-19 is still a variable). Giving young people an opportunity to socialize face-to-face is a major part of the solution.

Finally, you can play an important role in the lives of young people in your life. Please continue to support young learners by being open, honest and available. Also, when necessary, don’t be afraid to ask questions and/or seek help. A little computer downtime never hurt anyone. 

See you soon. Regards,

Bob Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program, a mental health counselor, and poet.

The featured photo was taken by Luke van Zyl and made available through Unsplash.

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