Technology may have negative social effect on kids

Maddy French
From left: Jack, Levi and Nick Johnson play games on their electronic devices. (Kate Johnson)

Kids ages eight to 18 are becoming more addicted to technology, and it is leading to negative consequences, such as the need for instant gratification, poor face-to-face interaction and risk of depression.

Children between the ages of eight and 10 years old spend more than seven hours a day using technology, and teenagers average more than 11 hours, according to a 2010 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A report by Common Sense Media shows in 2011, 10 percent of kids under age 2 used a mobile device and now in 2017, 38 percent of children under 2 have used a mobile device.

Screen time can lead to stress because chronic stress created from looking at a screen changes hormone levels, which increase irritability. This change in hormone levels can lead to depression, according to Psychology Today.

Lone Peak High School student Nick Johnson said he sees how technology is changing the way people communicate face to face.

“All of my friends having phones is annoying because sometimes me and my friends want to get together and play a basketball game, and one kid will go off and just want to play games on his phone,” Johnson said. “People get caught up in the games or new technology.”

A study done by FCD Educational Services found those who use too much technology are more likely to develop the same brain chemistry as substance abusers.

The next four sections will cover technology and instant gratification, face-to-face interaction, risk of depression and a different use of dopamine in the body.

Instant gratification leading to technology addiction 
The need for instant gratification is more likely to lead someone to addictive tendencies or behaviors, according to BYU psychology graduate student Lee Essig. He said people have a way to cope or escape hard things in life. The coping method might be through overeating, excessive exercise, pornography or social media.

“This instant gratification we seek may initially be motivated by a desire for pleasure, but once our brain has learned where we turn for pleasure, it will begin to use the same neural pathways as a response to pain, fear, anger, sadness,” Essig said.

The coping mechanisms initially used for pleasure or gratification have become a way to escape the pain or frustration in life, according to Essig.

“When we’re stressed, upset or feeling down, we’re more likely to turn to any of these behaviors in order to not feel those negative emotions,” Essig said. “This is what leads to compulsive or addictive behaviors. It’s not so much about gratification as it is an escape from pain.”

Essig said video games, social media, technology and Netflix are not necessarily bad, until used as a crutch to cope with emotions, stress or difficulties in life.
Face-to-face interaction

Nate Johnson, father of four children who currently attend Lone Peak High School, said there is a good use for technology in helping kids learn faster, but there is also a bad side to it.

“Instead of a kid coming home and interacting with people, they hop on an electronic device, and that is a real challenge,” Johnson said. “With good media, there is also bad media, so finding the balance to let them enjoy it and grow from those things is hard.”

He said there is a significant issue, not so much for the younger kids, but for teenagers. Children are picking up the phone to text or Snapchat instead of picking up the phone and speaking to someone.

“That is the challenge because the real world isn’t done electronically,” Johnson said. “We have to communicate in person, so whether it is face to face with their peers or parents, kids are hindered from developing relationships because kids are used to just texting.”

To help kids with technology addiction, parents can teach kids how to pick useful and age-appropriate media, according to Common Sense Media.

Risk of depression 

An article about childhood obesity and depression published in the International Journal of Child Health and Human Development said kids have a lack of motivation for activity due to overuse of technology. Certain behavior, moods or thoughts that come from sedentary activity are correlated with depression.

The article also stated that 30 percent of the 1,500 kids in the study used the internet for three or more hours a day and were diagnosed with depression. The research recommended children participate in more physical activities.

Different use of dopamine in the body 

BYU psychology graduate student Thomas White said dopamine is the feel-good chemical the body releases when pleased about something.

“It makes sense that if you enjoy technology, then you are likely to feel the effects of dopamine,” White said.

He said children aren’t using dopamine correctly; they are just seeking happiness using unsocial methods such as technology to get that “natural high” — normally achieved through face-to-face interactions.

White said he recommends people seek a variety of methods, such as in-person social interaction, to get the natural high from dopamine and not just from technology.

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