Tag archives: technology

Excessive Smartphone Use is Dehumanizing Us

by Daniel Hart

August 23, 2019

Much has been written about how our society’s addiction to our smartphones, particularly among young people, is worsening our quality of life. I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve read about how our culture seems to have tiny attention spans due to social media addiction and about how kids these days don’t make eye contact anymore due to the smartphones that seem to be physically attached to their hands.

Recently, a friend described to me how during an orientation session for his new job, he sat next to two twenty-something fellow new hires who spent the entire time on their smartphones, only occasionally looking up at their supervisor who was giving the orientation.

While worrisome anecdotal stories like these abound, hard data is now emerging that only confirms these fears. In a sobering article at Family Life, Clay Routledge cites recent studies that show that extensive time spent on smartphones is leading to a host of alarming deficiencies in basic human relationships and interactions:

For example, in a field experiment, researchers found that having cellphones present during a meal with family or friends decreased enjoyment of that social experience. Another experiment that involved pairs of college students waiting together with or without their cellphones found that those who were phoneless were far more likely to smile at and interact with one another than those with cellphones. And one study found that having college students severely limit their daily social media use over a three-week period decreased both loneliness and depression. In short, a growing body of experimental research is providing empirical evidence that cellphones distract us from fully experiencing the real world.

Of particular concern are new findings that show that excessive smartphone use is negatively affecting the very fabric of family life. Routledge referenced another recent experiment involving parents and their interactions with their children at a museum in which “[t]he researchers found that parents in the high-use condition [of smartphones], compared to those in the low-use condition, reported feeling less attentive and less socially connected, and reported lower meaning in life while with their children at the museum.”

Perhaps most frightening is a Pew survey cited by Routledge:

Regarding smartphones and family life specifically, a Pew survey found that around half of teenagers say their parents are distracted by their phones when they are trying to talk to them, and over 70% of parents report that their teenagers are distracted when they are trying to have a conversation with them.

When screen addiction worsens even the most basic form of relational activity—talking to our family members—you know we have a serious problem. What Routledge alludes to, and what FRC has emphasized for years, is that family provides the most basic form of meaning in a person’s life through the love they receive, which in turn forms our core sense of self-worth. When this most fundamental source of meaning in our lives is compromised through the breakdown of familial communication and relationships, bad things happen.

A convincing argument has been made that the release of the iPhone in 2007 marked the beginning of a disturbing trend of mental health crisis in the post-Millennial generation. Indeed, a glut of mental health problems have sharply risen among young people since then, including rising rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.

Less Screen Time, More Fulfillment

There’s no question that smartphones, tablets, and other internet-enabled portable devices have enhanced our lives in many ways. But as with any technology (or any worldly good, for that matter), believers know that moderation is key. In order to form healthy habits of technology use, we must see smartphones for what they are: a tool, not a necessity.

The primary way we can avoid smartphone addiction for our children and future generations is to limit the amount of time they spend looking at screens. How do we do this? Simply put, if they are out of sight, they are out of mind. If we diligently cultivate our homes as a place where learning and authentic leisure are the primary focus, the need for screens will rarely arise. This can also set an expectation of healthy use of screens that can enhance family life, like for communal viewing of movies or sporting events, for example.

At a certain point in a child’s life, they will see that their peers have smartphones, and they will naturally want to fit in. But if we raise our children with the understanding that they do not need a smartphone, and instead grow up with an expectation that they can work for and earn money to buy one at the age that they can get a job, they will be more likely to see smartphones not as necessities but as tools.

With this healthy perspective from a young age, it is far less likely that kids will form a smartphone addiction when they are older and have free access to them. As the emerging data suggests, and as we inherently know deep down, we are happier and more fulfilled when we spend less time engaging a screen and more time engaging each other.

Facebook Inc. valued above McDonalds Corp.: What does that mean for your kid?

by Family Research Council

May 15, 2012

Whether we like it or not, kids are now spending far more time with media and technology than they are with their families or in school — as much as eight hours a day on average in the United States alone. So wrote Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco think-tank focusing on media and families.

Facebook Inc is now worth more than Citigroup Inc. and McDonald’s Corp. But even when parents keep their kids off of the social networking site, numerous other apps and social media start-ups are vying for their use. The Wall Street Journal reported that 20 companies pitched online and mobile products for kids in Pasadena, Calif., at the 6th annual Digital Kids Conference, just last month.

The technological landscape is ever-changing and one mother-daughter team has an eye on the challenges of parenting in this brave, new world.

Concerned by the brevity of contemporary childhood and the crisis of premature sexualization brought on through “sexting” and related activities, Dr. Brenda Hunter and her daughter Kristen Blair have tackled these themes in a new book titled, From Santa to Sexting: Helping your Child Safely Navigate Middle School and Shape the Choices that Last a Lifetime.

Join us at noon on Friday, May 18th as Dr. Brenda Hunter and her daughter Kristen offer research, stories, and resources to help keep kids safe and strong in middle school.

RSVP today!

Time, Leisure, and the Pursuit of Virtue: Witherspoon lecture to explore the growth of moral capital in the modern age

by Family Research Council

October 13, 2011

Can reflection, meditation, and “moral leisure” survive the Twitter age? Our contemporary American connectedness and busy-ness certainly make it harder to focus on timeless things like wisdom and virtue.

Some of our religious leaders are nudging our churches (i.e. institutions meant to guard and foster virtue) to catch up with the social media times. But, then, some of our most tech-savvy millennials are ditching their personal iPhones in favor of uninterrupted dinner conversations and real books.

Gerson Moreno-Riano, Ph.D. will explore these themes at the Family Research Councils upcoming 2011 Witherspoon Lecture, at 12:00 noon on October 20th. Dr. Moreno-Riano is the dean of undergraduate studies and associate professor of government at Regent University. He suggests that our misuse of time and leisure threatens both public and private morality. But Dr. Moreno-Riano also offers hopeful remedies to recover and reverse the effects of this crisis.

Click here to register for next Thursdays event. The lecture will be webcast at www.frc.org. Light refreshments will be provided.

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