Youth losing human connection in digital era

Forum offers advice to Kelowna parents about managing a child’s social media screen time

Addiction to social media is stopping young people from becoming responsible adults, say two keynote speakers with the Children for a Better Future organization.

May Cooper and Stenya LeClair say research has shown how excessive use of social media affects young people’s ability to make inter-personal social connections, the skill and a lack of empathy.

Other countries are recognizing these issues and taking some corrective steps while the U.S. and Canada have remained ambivalent.

France has banned cell phone use in schools, while countries such as Australia, Japan, South Korea and China have recognized social media addiction as a concern by establishing clinics to address those issues.

May Cooper

Cooper and LeClair led a presentation in Kelowna this week on the negative impacts of excessive screen time and how parents can help divert their children’s attention to more healthy activities to positively enable their personal development.

RELATED: Safeguarding youth from Internet addiction

“This event is meant to engage parents in creating and maintaining a balance between screen time and other healthy pursuits off-line,” said Myrna Kalmakoff, early years community developer and organizer of the event.

“We know screens are part of family life, and want to encourage them to be used responsibly as the tool that they are.”

Parents can expect the presentation to help them recognize concerns with screen time, understand the qualities we need to strengthen in children during this digital age, and become aware of the importance of digital citizenship for everyone, said Kalmakoff.

The presentation is part of a host of activities planned for the Interior Savings Unplug and Play Week. A full listing of the other activities is available online at www.unplugandplayweek.com.

“It’s not only that excessive screen time can affect academic and work areas of life, strong social connections are also very important to the development of happiness, health and well-being as adults,” said LeClair, a registered massage therapist who operates an integrated health care clinic in Penticton.

Stenya LeClair

“Our main message of our presentation is what we see from the research being done about screen time is there is a relationship between the time spent on a social media device to the increase among children today of anxiety, depression and suicide, as well as a decrease in empathy.”

Cooper, a music teacher and host of the Peach City Radio program Changemakers Without Borders, says today’s youth generation is categorized as digital natives, meaning their learned communication skills often rely solely around social media devices and not face-to-face relationships.

That differs with digital immigrants, older adults who grew up developing social interaction skills and had to learn how to apply technology to their lives.

RELATED: Columnist urges need to address social skill shortcomings

LeClair added that research show adults spend about 10.5 hours of screen time a day, for youth it is 8.5 hours daily.

“Adults are using technology for their jobs, for their own entertainment. But it is important for parents to understand they are role models for their children, and if they follow their example with excessive time spent on social media devices it will impact the relationship the children have with them and others, affect their child’s sleep patterns and how they do in school.”

The two noted the underlying method behind the Silicon Valley technology mindset has always been how to pull in users of their applications and programs, and create ways to keep them coming back.

“For example, the tech industry hired experts familiar with gambling addiction on how to keep users of their programs engaged longer. And as humans we need stop cues to move on to other activities. For instance, a movie has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Has anyone ever reached the bottom of their Facebook feed?”

Why youth are susceptible to social media addiction and how to combat it will be discussed by LeClair and Cooper at their presentation in Kelowna on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the school district’s Hollywood Road Education Services facility, 1040 Hollywood Rd. South. Register for this free event online at www.coeyp.ca/events or call 250-497-7162.



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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