In my practice I see a number of parents who are trying to negotiate with their teenagers the balance between computers being used for homework and time allocated for recreational “fun” be it games, YouTube, Apps etc…
What a relevant topic it has been this year with the Victorian Education Minister James Merlino banning mobile phones in the playground during school hours in primary and secondary schools starting from 2020. It has created much debate amongst teachers, parents and students and it is a great topic to raise with any child. It has lead to newspaper articles, radio discussions and discussions at home and in the workplace.
In a podcast on ABC 702 conversations with Richard Fidler back in April this year, David Gillepsie, (Social Researcher and Lawyer) was interviewed talking about the impact that games and social media on all digital platforms was having on the teenage brain. He is specific in looking at the impact of software on the brain in puberty more than any other time in a person’s life discussing the outcome of increased addiction over a lifetime. This he says is due to the specific reward pathways in a teenage brain due to puberty making them susceptible to the marketing industry.
David takes a look at how billions are made in the software industry at the expense of this age group where they intentionally target the addiction centers in the teenage brain knowing that it will hook them as their products are designed to be addictive. As parents you will be familiar with what happens when it’s time for a child or adolescent to get off a computer when they are in the middle of a game, or creating an Instagram post or watching YouTube there is often tantrums, anger, aggression and defence and it is this behaviour that David says is a result of addiction. He encourages you to look at any addict that is unable to have their fix and their symptoms will be similar.
David’s solution is to use computers for acquiring knowledge rather than for games. He takes the path of no games, social media, YouTube etc. There is compelling research that backs up his concerns.
I think everyone will have their own ideas and levels as to whether they will take their teenagers off games at home, knowing that they will have access elsewhere, or create boundaries around their usage. I think the most important thing is to be educated about what games and social media are doing inside the brain particularly during the teenage years where they are most susceptible to creating the grounds for addiction in the future. Take time to listen to this podcast, or read David’s book, Teen Brain. It gives you important information that you and your children can discuss and have really good conversations about. To be informed is power and yes it really does make a difference.
I think the other reason also to take a listen is due to the raising levels of anxiety and depression that are now being experienced in the world today. Psychiatric disorders are now being linked to addictive use of social media. David Gillepsie talks about the rates of teenage pregnancy, cigarette, alcohol consumption, drug usage in 2007-2010 has now halved by 2019. The research he stated was from large scale US databases over 40 years. Anxiety and depression however are now on the rise and increasing, due to another stimulus that is powerful and easy to find and use – online games and social media.
An interesting article is The relationship between addictive use of social media and video games and symptoms of psychiatric disorders: A large-scale cross-sectional study (Article in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors · May 2016) If you have time take a read.
Maybe it is worth reading the research, listening to podcasts and really developing a thought-out response to your child, adolescence or even to yourself on what levels of technology/software you feel good about engaging in. What are your limits? boundaries? when do you know when it is time to come off a game, social media? or do you not engage in any software that can cause addictions? What are your thoughts on this? Everyone is different, lets embrace our difference and just be educated on what the research is telling us. Kids are retreating to their bedrooms, it would be interesting to see if we can really learn more on this to help our kids and teenagers with their mental health.