Wifi, smart phones, social media, and online video games have all contributed to a society where we are more connected than at any point in our history. Unfortunately, it has also created online and video game addiction and young people are being impacted too often.
Working with post-secondary student taught me something unexpected – there are now two ways to track time. The first, and traditional way, is with minutes and hours. This is how time is measured in real life. Online though, time is measured differently. Rather than telling parents they will finish their game of Fortnite in 10 minutes, children instead will say “I’m coming up after I get killed and respawn.” Doing homework often requires the use of a computer where YouTube and the endless hours of videos await. This can lead to a teen saying to themselves: “After this 2 minute video I’ll do my homework.” Then, when that video is done, their screen shows them a whole list of other videos that are based on the one they watched….and it is hard to not watch at least one.
Not all children are addicted to video games and being online, but more and more they are spending more time in the virtual world than the real one. The result of this can be one or more of the following:
- Lower grades due to wasted time online
- Screen-time goes up
- An increase in arguments with parents as families struggle to meet the requirements of “real life time.” Waiting for a 15 year old to respawn may not be acceptable to parents who are in a rush to get to a family event on time.
- More time online often results in less time sleeping. Sleep is critical to our brain function and overall mood. In addition, over time a lack of sleep can have physical consequences as well.
- Behaviours such as those associated with ADD. One of the characteristics of the virtual world is instant gratification – when something is desired it arrives right away. Waiting becomes harder and harder to do, and when a screen is not available the ability to sit still is diminished.
I could go on but will stop here. The good news is that there are ways to deal with this that do not involve unplugging the Internet. I have worked with young adults to find ways to marry real time to virtual time and to set limits on screen usage. The results can be very positive.