Since the 2000s, our lives have dramatically changed with the omnipresence of social media and smartphone use. We are now online 24/7 and bombarded with information, such as friend requests, Instagram posts, videos and more. Along the way, we seem to have somewhat forgotten how to interact face- to-face with our peers. And although we are a part of this large and ever growing social media community, we appear to have become more isolated than ever. We have less interactions with others and we do not share as much with our family, neighbors or friends as our parents did less than 20 years ago. We have forgotten the real sense of the word community or it just became outdated: “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common”. The definition instead should be: Community is a group of people that care about each, benefit from each other other – and feel they belong together.
Community is a shared bond with others. You know them personally and share interests with them. They should care about you more than they do about someone who posted a new profile picture on a website or other social media platform.
Our children, mostly our teens, spend hours in front of their screens. Sometimes it is to do their homework but more often it is to check their phones or watch videos and stream media rather than interacting one to one with their peers.
As a father, I personally found it scary to hear that a new study links cell phone radiation to memory performance problems in children and teens. Many studies links cell phone radiations to long term health risks like brain cancer and sperm damage. I also found it alarming to hear that 40% of American children under the age of 8 have their own tablets or related products. The world health organization and the international agency for research on cancer has classified radio frequency radiation exposure as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Many scientists and experts in this topic advocate taking steps to lower exposure, especially for children.
Other research has linked excessive screen time with a feeling of isolation in young adults and teens.
Screen time also impairs sleep. Computers, televisions, tablets and other electronic devices give off blue light. Data show that this blue light tends to make us more alert at night. That makes it harder to fall asleep and get all the rest we need. Blue light tricks our brain and inhibits the synthesis of melatonin. This hormone is derived from serotonin and helps us to fall asleep and stay asleep. Blue light stops that process.
A study published in Clinical Psychological Science found that increased screen time might be linked to the increase in depressive symptoms and suicide for teen girls (study is from between 2010 and 2015). It suggests a link between increased social media use and depression. Interestingly, the data did not show the same increase for teen boys.
For young adults, social media may not be so social after all. Among people in that age group, heavy use of platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram were associated with feelings of social isolation, as reported by Dr Brian Primack, MD PhD Director, Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health, University of Pittsburgh, co -author of the study.
As parents, we need to take steps to decrease our children’s exposure to radio frequency and screen time. We need to increase direct interactions with friends and family. We also need to implement the idea of restful time, 8-12 hours without any exposure to WiFi, TV, computer screens and social media. Turning off the WiFi at night, banning cellphones and tablets from our bedroom and our children’s bedroom are the best ways to do it. It is also equally important to resist the temptation to check our email or social media as soon as we wake up.
Dr Jean- Marc Sobczyk, MD, ND is a licensed Naturopathic doctor in California, expert in environmental medicine and provide integrative naturopathic care for children at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine, call 310-451-8880 to schedule a visit. or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org