Put Down the Cellphone and Pick Up the Book

Imagine a screen-junkie’s environment. The shutters are down, dispelling the sun; the only light is from the glowing CPU. The hum of the monitors fills the enclosed space with its low drawl, echoing throughout the lifeless compartment-like space. Shadows dance across the walls, the only movement in a world otherwise devoid of life. A person hunches over a keyboard perched atop a cluttered desk, furiously clacking away while simultaneously munching on a steaming cup of Ramen. Their eyes are glued to the screen, shifting only to check a text or an Instagram notification.

While this scene may be an exaggerated version of a student’s workspace, it hits far too close to home. Pandemics aren’t easy, but the sheer volume of time spent on an electronic device is astounding. For teenagers who already spend hours a day on social media, a couple of extra hours may not seem like a big deal. But extra screen time can have a detrimental impact on the brain.

Brains continue to grow until the age of 25, an age which many teenagers are an easy ten years away from. This means that decision making is not at its finest and added pressures such as screen only enhance the already tumultuous life of a teen.

A study conducted in 2016 by the National Health Institute outlines the approximate daily usage of screens in America by children and adolescents aged 2-17. In the study, the participants were asked how much screen time they spent on recreational activities, such as TV and videogames, and how much they spent on “hand-held” electronics such as phones. The scientists then extrapolated the data based on age group.

The results were appalling yet unsurprising. On average, the total daily screen time for a 14-17-year-old was 4.59 hours. 4.59 hours translates to 32.13 hours a week, 139.23 hours a month, and 1670.76 hours a year. Twenty percent of the year is spent on screens, 33.33% is spent sleeping, leaving only 46.67% for societal engagement. Interactions. Life.

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Additionally, the scientists found that there was a strong correlation between high screen times and diagnoses of anxiety and depression. The study revealed that “Fourteen to 17-year-olds spending 7+ h/day with screens (vs. 1 h/day) were more than twice as likely to ever have been diagnosed with depression (RR 2.39, 95% CI 1.54, 3.70) or anxiety” (Twenge and Campbell 3.3).

This may be due to the fact that teenagers spend a large portion of their time on social media platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat, which are unfortunately breeding grounds for self-consciousness and insecurity.

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For all participants, the NIH concluded that high screen time was associated with decreased emotional regulation and increased aggressive behaviors. Overall, more screen time was a recipe for disaster.

It’s impossible to deny that screens are the cornerstones of the twenty-first century; this millennium has often been hailed as the age of technology. With people relying more and more on screens to function, it is unreasonable to eliminate technology from our day-to-day lives.

But we must check ourselves. A good first step is to set limits on screen time, which can even be done for specific apps. Swap out browsing Facebook for a reading, or even a quick walk. It takes 21 days to make a habit, but it shouldn’t take 4 hours and 35 minutes to satisfy your screen cravings.

Gen-Z is popularized as reckless, ungrateful, and tech-crazy, but we should strive to put down the cellphone and pickup the book to abolish this stereotype once and for all.