The addictive nature of media and screen time is not foreign, and many agree that it should come with limits.
Barna’s newest report, Gen Z: Volume 2, claims that three-in-five 13 to 21-year-olds (60%) acknowledge the need for less screentime.
According to The Christian Post, Barna’s survey collected data from 1,503 13 to 21-year-olds over one month between June 15 and July 17, 2020. The sample reports a margin of error of ±2.53.
Over half (53%) of respondents said that they feel guilty about the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. Another quarter of recipients said that they spend “just the right amount of time on screens.” At the same time, an additional 13% claim that the amount of screentime does not matter.
The report also details some of the immediate effects that too much screen time has on young adults. Over half (53%) said that increased screentime encourages them to “procrastinate doing homework or other things,” and 54% said they feel like it is a waste of time. Moreover, precisely half attribute distractions to technology and 36% accused screentime of feeling less productive.
Norris also noted several myths about screen time parents tend to buy into regarding their children’s smartphones.
Emily Cherkin of Seattle, Washington, understands the struggle. Cherkin spent 12 years teaching seventh graders and now works as a coach and activist, counseling parents on appropriate developmental boundaries for smartphones.
Cherkin reported, “6 Myths and Truths About Kids and Screens”:
Myth: “My kid can make good choices about screentime. I trust my kid.” Truth: It is our job to set limits.
Myth: “Everyone else has a phone.” Truth: No, they don’t.
Myth: “I watched TV and played video games when I was a kid. I turned out fine.” Truth: It’s pretty different today.
Myth: “This is a kid problem. They’re addicted!” Truth: Adults need to model tech health.
Myth: “Parental controls keep my kid safe. That’s all I need.” Truth: Be the mentor, not just the monitor.
Myth: “My kid needs tech now to be prepared for the future.” Truth: Messy play warps brains. Tech can come later.
“What really troubles me is that we are giving [our kids] devices and products and apps that are designed to be addictive to children,” Cherkin says, referring to whistleblower accounts of algorithms devised to maximize user attention. “And then we’re expecting them to self-regulate and getting upset when they do stupid things. Middle school was a safe place, for the most part, for kids to screw up and learn how not to do it again the next time. We’ve just taken away the safety net of messing up without being blasted or shamed across a digital platform.”
Norris said that parents must fight to protect their children from online addiction and its adverse side effects.
“As parents, I think one thing we all can agree on is this: Part of loving and raising our children is regulating their access to opportunities and situations until they are developmentally ready to show good judgment and self-control,” Norris writes. “But we also need to protect them from those who prey upon them, and too few parents realize just how proliferating the online predators have become.”
“We crave (are addicted to?) media approval,” he adds. “Each social media moment is another scene in our’ incessant autobiography.’ We live our lives by headlines and popularity. Our attention drifts from things that matter most in this life toward the latest headlines and gossip.”
Norris said that online consumption also distracts us from our Creator.
“We lose track of and waste time and our lives. The wonder of people, plants and nature – even God himself – gets lost in the whirl of ‘urgent’ notifications,” he writes.
The Barna Group and the Impact 360 Institute released a new report that shows teens who spend more time reading the Bible have better screentime discernment.
Barna Group President David Kinnaman claims that on average, teenagers spend over 5 hours on their smartphones. Furthermore, young adults spend over six hours per day.
“We’re all, as human beings, in this experiment of what it’s going to be like for us to be in a digital environment to be raised in a world that I call ‘Digital Babylon,’ where so many of the controlling factors are different than they would have been in the past,” Kinnaman said.
However, Kinnaman also explained how the Barna report also showed that a commitment to reading Scripture, church, and faith “are more discerning when it comes to their devices,”
“There’s this really interesting interconnection between being a resilient disciple and also how you use your screentime,” Kinnaman said. “They have a more positive outlook and greater mental and emotional health.”