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How Screen Time Creates Laziness in Children

Let’s talk about young people who don’t finish what they start. I had hung up from another phone call with a friend of mine who often works with interns from a variety of backgrounds (and countries). The individuals in charge of these interns have noticed a certain attitude in the Millennial generation of workers. Should we be alarmed?  And how does this have to do with how screen time creates laziness in children?

See if this triggers an experience you may have witnessed or been involved in lately. Have you worked with someone aged 18-23 within the year? Do they seem distracted? Do they appear disinterested? Maybe they show a lack of ‘needing to know’ in several areas of their work? Think it might not be a big deal? It certainly is when the intern roles that these students seek are continuously open and not as easily filled as in years prior. It begs the question – what is so different?

I read a recent release for a publication being drafted for a large pediatric group. National data was harvested from 2011-2012 of more than 6,400 children aged 6-17 years relating to device screen time use and levels of productivity, interest and homework completion. The data showed substantial impacts in all areas – additionally, there were significant impacts on childhood flourishing. This made me sit up and take notice. The pediatricians cataloged data that looked at five specific markers that coincide with the concept of childhood flourishing. These markers include: completing homework assignments, caring about doing well, finishing tasks, showing interest and curiosity in learning new things, and staying calm when faced with challenges. The data showed that for every two hours using media, the odds decreased in the markers. The results were independent of sex, age, or family poverty level of the child.

The markers of a child being productive, interested and focused were decreased by 31% for children using media less than two hours.  The decrease was 36% for children using media from two to four hours.  Remember, this was data pulled in 2012. I don’t know about you, but I certainly see many more kids using media than four years ago. Don’t you wonder how much more impacted their abilities may be? What would the expectation be of these children in a business atmosphere today?

We all know that screen time is not going away any time soon. So how do we diminish the negative impact depicted in the study? Pediatricians in the publication all agreed on one thing: increase face time. No, not on a device, but in person through talking to one another. This, as you can imagine, would mean the adults need to put their own devices away.

Please understand I’m not promoting locking up all screens. We are tied to our technology and I am realistic. Taking steps to reducing it in your home or car would be an improvement. Need ideas? Pick moments in your day that everyone can ditch the screens and interact (car rides, breakfast, after getting home, dinner, bedtime).  Go walking, (include the dog), bike riding, or rollerblading. Have a game night. Have a book night. Create a signature ‘moment’ that everyone participates in daily or weekly (What One Thing I Failed, One Funny Thing I Saw, One Kind Thing I Did, One Dream I Have, One Wish for Someone). Once this is a commitment, additional ideas will come up. Think I’m wrong? Try it!

If you’d like, read this article: ‘Kids who spend more time on screens are less likely to show initiative’ (Carly Sitrin, Globe Correspondent, 10/26/16, The Boston Globe (online).

Written by Heather Lascano

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