Teens + Screens = 30+% Suicide Increase

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12/1/17  A ten-year-old Colorado girl hanged herself after a video of her was posted online.  https://tinyurl.com/ycrflygb

A group of researchers, in Clinical Psychological Science showed the drastic impact of smartphones on teen mental health.

 Between 2010 – 2015 among 13 – 18-year-olds

  • Depression increased 33%
  • Teen suicide attempts increased 23%
  • Suicide jumped 31%.

 What changed?  The social structure of American children now revolves around virtual “friends” and “selfies;” self-importance, notoriety, acceptance, and electronic “gear.” These needs are the same as ever, but the structures, and ways of connecting changed drastically. 

Now, teens stay alert to every text, email, Facebook posting, and Instagram message; they play computer games maniacally; sleep less at a critical stage of development; they barely notice the real world around them.  Even when they are together physically, they play vicious, amoral, computer games, mentally isolating them and pitting one against another (e.g. World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto).

Teenagers develop identities, feel lonely, realize they are separate from others,  feel unworthy, measured on an impossible scale of unending perfection, want independence, but see they are not self-sufficient, are completely dependent on the adults in their lives.  But, what is different about that?   

We all suffered these growing pains, but mostly in private; now teens have zero privacy, addicted to the idea that worthiness equals public notice, acceptance, and approval.  They live for attention, “Look at me and what I did.” is the mantra of teens in 2017.   This transparency exposes them to what their peers post about them on social media, especially “shaming.”  Teenagers have always been vicious to each other in the struggle to be on top, or at least survive.  Teens’ private lives, become public, like embarrassing intimate photos; the cruelty stays imbedded online for anyone to see, forever.

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Sexting, is insanity; trying to impress someone, can lead to immortal images.

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That is much more damaging than the teasing and taunting kids have always done.  Remember, “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you?”  Not true for today’s teens. They have paper-thin egos that bruise and tear from any loss of face. Girls have increased anxiety, depression, eating, sleep, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Screen time per day is closely related to suicide risk; the study showed that teens who spend less than 2 hours per day on-screen, have normal levels of risk.  As average on-screen time increases, including texting, so does the suicide risk level:

Risk of at least one suicide risk factor from 2009 to 2015:

Screen Hours/ day = Suicide Risk Factors

2  = 27%

3  = 34%

5+= 48%

What to do?  If you want to support someone screen-addicted, work with them to increase in-person social interactions, not involving screens.  Manage on-screen personal time to 2 hours or less.  Schedule screen-free days or weekends.

Here is a link to the research:  http://bit.ly/2zianG5

 

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Intelligence Could Not Be More Artificial – Screen Addiction Steals Our Reality

Our pre-American forbears led lives of subsistence; work all day, every day for enough food to survive; prepare and eat the food; collapse into sleep; awake to the same exhausting challenges.  This work ethic and focus are a major part of what colonists brought to the New World, driven by the chance to own the land they work, hunt and fish the wilds about them, and live free of the crushing burdens of near-slavery as serfs, peasants, and servants.  They could not dream of a time that was not filled with all the efforts of pulling and putting together the pieces of life’s necessities.

Just meeting today’s needs was never enough. They could not afford to face the seasons unprepared. They had to be alert, to anticipate, prepare, learn, and plan for the cycles and dangers of nature; they had to be ready for the seasons, timing, preparing, sowing, harvesting, preserving, and storing of food: crops, fish, game, fruits; cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood, clothing, tools, weapons; sickness, injury, childbirth; shelter, stewardship of farm animals, and on, and on.

Except for a few times, when nature did not allow work, people, including children, worked, ate, and slept.  Church was a mandatory break for the work-cycle.  Not only did weekly Sunday services provide “leisure” time for peaceful, renewing, and moral guidance, but it also allowed for physical regeneration through rest; it fostered hygiene and discipline; it fostered family and community “leisure” and play.

This kind of all-absorbing farm life continued for most Americans until technology began its ascent.  Within a dozen decades, we expanded, invented, and produced, new tools, factories, mines, roads, bridges, harbors, waterways, and railroads.  Farmers and ranchers produced enough food to allow them to sell it to non-farmers, who earned the money in towns and cities.

“Money-crops” such as cotton, tobacco, wool, hides, and furs, fed the textile mills, the leather tanneries, and tobacconists; cash was used for things the farmer could not produce easily, such as cloth, dye, needles, pins, shoes, glass, pots, pans, jars, jugs, clocks, medicines, spices, firearms, gunpowder, swords, axes, shovels, scythes, harnesses, chains, hinges, nails, buttons, buckles, candles, lamps, and things we needed then that we no longer remember.

Non-farm work had start and stop times.  Workers arrived at a certain time, worked and ate at certain times, and left at certain times.  That meant the rest of the day was up to the workers to use as they chose.  Holidays became expected days of rest.  Merchants tailored shop hours to worker schedules, which gave them down time as well.

The Great Depression and World War II accelerated three trends:  migration to cities, training in trades, and advanced education.

They also introduced and promoted the first virtual technologies, telephone, phonographs, movies, radio, and television.  Costs, broadcast time and reception areas limited the time people spent talking, listening, and watching.  But the attraction was clearly evident.  People would plan their days and evenings around their favorite news and entertainment programs.  Trips to the movies were considered treats.

The return of prosperity brought expanding demand for all the virtual technologies.  One limit on these technologies was location: phonographs, telephones, radios, movies, and televisions were locations people had to attend to use.  One exception for police and fire fighters:  two-way radios mounted in vehicles.  World War II saw the advent of “walkie-talkies,” the conceptual and technical precursors of modern cellphones.

Car radios, and the transistor radios released the listener from having to find a radio, to having a radio with them

The 1950’s, and 60’s introduced computers to American Business.  Once again, computers were locations, entombed in rarefied environments defended by physical security, and complete ignorance of the general populous.

The 1980’s advent of “personal computers;” which were portable, with some effort.  All that was missing was connecting computers through telephone systems – the Internet, and connecting radios to telephones – cellular phones.  The catalyst for the connectivity we enjoy today was the cellphone, which erased any connection between phones and locations, and made people the locations for telephone numbers.

Televisions were limited by the stations that broadcast in their reception area.  Three major national TV networks evolved, connected by satellite to the world.  Connecting televisions directly to satellites, coaxial cables, and now the Internet, brought us out of “network-tv” into the 24/7 “cable-tv” era.

Once cellphones connected to the Internet and television, where we watch movies, we arrived to today, where the distinctions have almost completely blurred.  Likewise have our senses of reality.

Now, “friends” are not people we know, “social media” is anonymous and often anti-social.  “Gamers” give a whole new meaning to “WoW,” spending days lashed to their computers, dispensing with bathroom breaks, installing Mountain Dew, refrigerators, and cutting pizza delivery slots in their doors.

We already have an entire generation living in basements.  What is next?  Maybe evolution will soon give our species extended narrow thumbs for “Texting,” and dimmer judgement for “Sexting.”  Maybe someday, all our ogling will be “Googling.” Is the “Zombie Apocalypse” upon us with the living “undead?”  I wonder if Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence will converge into caskets, from which we never need emerge?  Will we live to see the rise of VARZI?

Independence Every Day – Divorce Virtual Opioids

This is a great time to be alive in America.  The average American has a better life than kings, queens, and pharaohs of the past.  We are safer, live longer, are free to go where we want, and enjoy knowledge and experiences that would have astounded the world only a few decades ago.

One area that is encroaching on our freedom is the enticing addiction to the virtual world to the exclusion of the real, here and now world.  More, and more, I walk through crowds of “zombies” stuck in their phones, tablets, music, and video.  They are not really “here.”  The inattention to life has begun to dominate our culture.  Isolation from “real” family and friends is rapidly wearing down the social skills of our society members.

The siren attraction of the imaginations of others is sapping the development and practice of imagining for ourselves.  Children need that development as they grow up.  What kind of adults, parents, employees will people become if they have no experience of self-creation?  What will our culture become when all we have is “copies” of the excellent ideas generated by a few “imagineers.”

Try doing without the virtual toys and tools you spend so much time with for 24 hours:  No cell phones, tablets, pc’s, internet, cable tv, DVD’s or other electronics.  You will quickly find out what you have been missing, such as talking with your family, reading books, playing musical instruments, inventing things, fixing things, learning things, eating with people who are present and making conversation about your life and the people you love.

We had to fight for our independence as we started this nation.  Now is a good time to exercise total freedom from the seductive draw of virtual opioids.

Parents Addict Children – Screen Zombies

Parents put their babies in front of television and tablet screens to entertain and “babysit” them.  Parents and teachers believe children can advance their knowledge through computer “learning systems.” Parents surrender to the pressure from their preadolescent daughters for smartphones so they can text their friends and share activities through social media.  Children spend hours at their computers and tablets absorbed in online role-playing and video games.

The problem is these children can easily become lifetime addicts to their virtual worlds.  Notice the bent heads of children with their families in restaurants; they are not saying grace.  Check out kids in buses and the back seats of cars; how many are looking out the windows or talking to each other?

Listen for that faint buzzing sound in movie theaters, and watch the Pavlovian response of children who cannot resist answering voice and text messages no matter when or where they are.

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras is an expert in addiction and rehabilitation.  He paints a chilling picture of the futures of these children in his book “Glow Kids.”  He operates rehabilitation centers for drug and alcohol addiction.  The problem with “screen addiction” is there is no way to eliminate the “substance” from their environment; tech stimulations are everywhere, waiting for the addicts to notice and return to them.

The trance induced by these addictions is powerful; people can spend hours at the screen and be totally unaware of the passage of time or the events that happen around them; their lives have been hijacked, and that part of their lives is gone.

Social media addicts get emotionally engaged with people they never met, pictures of somebody’s lunch, and silent “verbal” exchanges. When I was growing up, if someone teased me or called me names, I was taught to say, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”, or “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.”, or “so are you.”  It really worked for me (except when sticks or stones, or fists or feet were actually employed.  THAT was what we called bullying;).

Now, kids are committing suicide in response to slurs or embarrassments.  Why would they do that? Think about it; no physical harm was done; a normal person would not react that way; it must be psychological; they would have to be addicts to respond that strongly to “cyberbullying.”  Not knowing about the addiction leaves most adult, non-addicts perplexed about what to do.  Instead of rehabbing and strengthening the psyche of the addict target, we try to outlaw bullying; what a thankless, futile waste of energy and time when dealing with children at that stage of development.

I defer to the experts on what to do and not do, but reading this book would not hurt your understanding of this problem.