Ziggy Marley has joined the call for teens to avoid addiction to their smartphones at all costs, a problem that has spread globally, at least for the past decade.
“Public Service Announcement from Z. Addiction is real to my tweens and tweens in particular. Prison isn’t always walls and bars. Free yourselves from psychological dependence and the comfort of having devices constantly in your head, freedom is more than just physical.”
“Control your phone. Don’t let your phone control you,” he added.
Ziggy has been concerned about the effect of excessive screen time on children’s brains for a long time.
In December 2018, he shared on his website the contents of the ABCD study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health, a preliminary report that found there are “significant differences” in the brains of children who spend too much time online.
That National Institutes of Health study that scans their brains and tracks 11,000 children aged nine and 10 over a decade, reveals that in the first wave of data from brain scans of 4,500 participants, MRIs found significant differences in the brains of some children who used phones Smartphones, tablets and video games more than seven hours a day.
The scans found that the babies had premature thinning of the cortex, the outer, wrinkled layer of the brain that processes information from the five senses.
A June 2019 article by Harvard Medical School titled Screen Time and the Brain provided information showing that “digital devices can interfere with everything from sleep to creativity.”
It quoted pediatrician Michael Rich, associate professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, as saying that what matters is not the length of screen time but how digital devices are used “and what happens in brains in response.”
“A lot of what happens on screen provides ‘poor’ stimulation to the developing brain compared to reality,” said Professor Rich, director of the Center for Medicine and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
The professor said children need a diverse list of online and offline experiences, including an opportunity to “let their minds wander,” because “boredom is the space where creativity and imagination happen.”
The Harvard article also said that a good night’s sleep is also key to brain development, and that using blue-light screen devices such as smartphones before bed can disrupt sleep patterns by suppressing the secretion of the hormone melatonin.
The report also stated that because many teens who stay up late texting not only get less sleep, they also lack the deep REM sleep necessary to process and store information from that day in memory.
“Even if they stayed up late in algebra class, they might not remember what happened in class yesterday,” Professor Rich explained.
The pediatrician also said that tempting digital endeavors such as games, social media and other online activities seem to activate the brain’s reward system, working on a so-called variable reward system, similar to slot machine games, where hope balances big wins “with a bit of frustration And unlike slot machines, a sense of skill is needed to improve.”
Further explaining the phenomenon, Professor Rich said that “a young person’s brain lacks a fully developed self-control system to help it stop this type of obsessive behavior.”
He also recommended a balanced approach to screen use, and initiatives aimed at promoting positivity and mitigating negativity, as “we don’t want to be in a moral panic because kids are staring at smartphones.”
The focus, he said, should be on what happens when children “stare at their smartphones, in terms of their cognitive, social and emotional development,” because as with most things, “it’s likely to be a mixture of positivity and negation.”
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