Giuliana C., US News Department Co-Editor
Gen Alpha. The first generation to be born into a completely digitized world in which they are handed an iPad immediately after they emerge from the womb. They bring the devices to the grocery store, restaurants, and even the dinner table, glued to the screen and unable to look away as if the thousands of pixels set them into a deep hypnotic state. But this excess time spent attached to a screen comes with a price and even some side effects we aren’t fully aware of yet.
Smartphone use has plagued society as a whole, teenagers spending hours on TikTok racking upwards of seven hours of screen time. When iPhones were released in 2007, only the essential utilities were included on the device: a calendar, camera, SMS messaging, maps, music, calling, etc. Since then, millions of apps have rapidly entered the digital world, giving phone users more of an excuse for phone use. What differentiates Gen Z (another digitized generation) from Gen Alpha is the rarity of having a household full of handheld devices during the time span of 1997-2012; most of Gen Z didn’t have immediate electronic stimulation after birth during their toddler years as Gen Alpha has. The CDC reports kids aged eight are spending at least six hours a day in front of a screen, five hours more than the recommended dose.
Common sense media reports that at least half of the children under the age of eight are in possession of a personal device and use it for more than two hours a day. The intemperate attachment to devices during crucial years of development has shown to be thinning the part of the brain responsible for critical thinking and decision making. Experts fear that aside from the toll these habits have on mental development, emotional setbacks are likely. The utter disregard for the outside world and ‘real life’ functions such as socialization and toys may cause a disconnect from reality.
“There is also some evidence that children who watch a lot of television during the early elementary school years perform less well on reading tests and may show deficits in attention.” Mentions Dr. Jennifer Cross. The myriad of side effects from the overkill of screen time outweigh the pros if any. Increased risk of obesity and poor health choices is one of the most prominent risks, and the sedentary lifestyle developed from hovering over a screen all day leaks into the long-term eating habits of the device user as well. Poor diet and exercise choices also contribute to health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, dental issues, as well as depression.
As expressed, the greater impact of long-term device use from a younger age is incredibly harmful and antithetical to what healthy development should look like. Mental development is impacted as well as the creation of long-term physical habits. As the new norm of toddlers and tablets emerges into society, the true long-term effects are yet to be discovered. Only time will tell the more significant influence of this phenomenon.