Smartphones, Social Media and Teens: Benefits, Risks and Radiation?

Teens, across the nation and around the world, will be heading back to school soon. While teens were “relaxing” over the summer, researchers were doing their due diligence by continuing to explore the impact smartphones and social media have on teens.  Let’s take a look at what we know and explore some new information that might be helpful to teens, parents and educators.

What we’ve known for a while is that smartphones and social media have been linked to anxiety, depression, stress, lack of sleep, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts found in teens.  Teen anxiety and depression treatment centers have risen up in large numbers.  Longer hours on social media have been found to increase a teen’s risk of cyberbullying, lower self-esteem and may cause loss of valuable friend, family, and personal time.

While social media has benefits such as instant and often meaningful communication with family and peers, being constantly on has become a social media trap for many teens.  By increasing the time spent on measuring and managing their social media success on sites like Instagram and Snapchat, experts fear overuse may be adding risks to teen’s mental health.  Being constantly on, plugged in 24/7 – many teens never get a break.

Statistically, girls who spend several hours on their smartphones and social media each day tend to develop more social and emotional problems than boys.  Teen girls spend more time cultivating their online identity, comparing themselves to their peers and paying more attention to “likes.”  Teen boys tend to spend more time gaming and less time worrying about online identity.

Recently it was noted that 95% of teens have access to a smartphone.

We know that teens who are constantly on, keeping up with the latest apps, gaming, spending longer hours on social media, and wondering and worrying about how they measure up to their peers run the risk of higher than normal academic challenges and mental health issues.

Adult awareness to the many tactics used to get teens (and others) hooked to social media is the first step toward understanding and breaking the “constantly on” cycle.  Adults have, at their fingertips, bundles of research and studies as to the “why and how” teenagers get hooked, become addicted to social networking, and, as a consequence, have difficulty putting their smartphone and other devices aside.

The Latest…

When it comes to smartphones, social media and teens, it now appears there is more to consider.  In a recent article entitled, “Smartphones are killing teenagers’ memories, study says” by Chris Ciaccia, it was suggested and supported by the study referred to in the title, that radiation from smartphones is negatively impacting teenagers’ memories, leaving them with short-term memory loss. Perhaps now that more people are incorporating more organic living into so many aspects of their lives, they might also consider putting down their technology.

Reference:

https://www.swisstph.ch/en/news/news-detail/news/mobile-phone-radiation-may-affect-memory-performance-in-adolescents/

Echo Dot Dot Dot…

Remember when you first learned how to echo?  Maybe you were on a hike and your voice reflected off a wall or mountain.  Maybe you were imitating or repeating everything said by your best friend.  Maybe you were eliciting a sympathetic response to a sentiment expressed. Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses a smart speaker Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the news and more.

Until recently echo meant any or all of the above.  With the introduction of Amazon Echo and, most recently, Echo Dot For Kids into homes around the world, the word “echo” has taken on new meaning.

Echo Dot For Kids

Echo Dot For Kids is being marketed as a kid-friendly DJ, comedian, and storyteller.  Boys and girls can ask her to play music, read stories, answer questions, tell jokes and more.  If there are compatible Echo devices in the house, parents and kids can even “talk” to each other or tell each other good morning or good night.

Unlike the outdoor echo experience of a voice bouncing off canyon walls, young voices are heard, responded to by a voice-activated speaker recording everything your child says all in the “privacy” of your own home.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that children are a key market for tech companies.  With the introduction of Echo Dot For Kids, advocates by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) say voice activated devices could prove to be a security risk as well as just one more device to encourage compulsive technology use.  Further, Google, Amazon and Facebook have all introduced devices or messaging services for kids that could potentially put a child’s privacy at risk and cause further exploitation.

What’s next?  Is parenting being replaced with devices?  What are tech companies doing to promote face-to-face, authentic, family connections?