Can we ever unplug?

The prominent Kaiser Family Research Foundation recently shocked America with a ground-breaking study of media use among American children. According to the findings, the average 8-to-18-year-old spends over seven and a half hours each day using electronic media. That’s 53 hours each week spent on-line, texting, watching TV, talking on the phone, playing video games, or (more likely) engaging in more than one of these activities at once.

That’s more than most adults spend each week at work. In fact, aside from sleep and school, American children are basically always plugged into an electronic device.

As the mother of four children, I was aghast. True, my kids don’t spend anywhere near seven and a half hours each day playing with electronic gadgets. But they’re young, I thought. My oldest is just eight years old; perhaps with time he will bow to this new American reality.

It might be the new American reality, but I think it is an unfortunate one. People crave “real” experiences. We also crave connection with other people.

Heavy use of social media can make people feel socially isolated and depressed. There have been a host of scientific studies that show heavy use of social media can make people feel socially isolated and depressed. Many of us will identify with the words of Dr. Patricia Greenfield, who directs the Children’s Digital Media Center, which is a collaboration between UCLA and California State University:

“Human beings evolved for face-to-face communication. The presence of another person in the flesh triggers important human emotions such as empathy. We may be reducing such emotions in developing human beings by reducing face-to-face communication and augmenting electronic communication.”

I

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1 comment for “Can we ever unplug?

  1. April 17, 2010 at 9:08 pm

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