Consider (but fail at) Taking a Break.

Debate topic for the week: Technology is making our kids unhealthy.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the first thing I thought of when hearing last week’s debate topic was a voice saying, “Kids these days don’t go outside and play” or “Hey! There’s a lake out there!”

Flashbacking (using it as a verb now) to playing Guild Wars with my brother and the moment the developers put a time reminder on this game and I hated them for it.

You have been playing Guild Wars for 2 hours. Consider taking a break.

You have been playing Guild Wars for 6 hours. Consider taking a break.

You have been playing Guild Wars for 13 hours. You really need to go outside now. What are you doing with your life? Do you feel bad about this? Because you should. Re-evaluate all life decisions that brought you to this point.

OK, the end of the last one may have been an inner dialogue…. Hahaha, just kidding. I would simply sign out of the game and come back on so it would seem like I was only playing for 1 hour and no longer had to be shamed by my computer!

Image retrieved from www.123rf.com

Computer Addict – Image retrieved from http://www.123rf.com

Technology has increased the amount of time people are sedentary. I think it’s virtually impossible to deny this. I never would have sat in an uncomfortable rolling chair for hours if I didn’t have Guild Wars or Gears of War and immerse myself in a different world.  Obesity in Children and Technology describes how one-third of American adolescents are overweight or obese and argues decreased physical activity is due to the amount of time kids are in front of a screen. However, I don’t think our sedentary lifestyle (directly caused by technology) is solely to blame for the increased obesity rates because diet has also changed significantly. Unfortunately, one of the reasons our diet has changed drastically is because children’s advertisements were deregulated in 1984. A study conducted by Frederick J. Zimmerman stated that “Commercial television pushes children to eat a large quantity of those foods they should consume least: sugary cereals, snacks, fast food and soda pop”.

Deregulation made young people the most important and profitable consumer to exist EVER. Children are constantly exposed to advertisements and generations are becoming more obsessed with material goods and foods that constantly play on television. This is especially harmful when “prior television experience continued to predict unhealthy food preferences and diet in early adulthood, and perceived taste had the most direct relationship to both healthy and unhealthy diets.” If people decide how they will eat during early adulthood, and they are exposed to unhealthy food advertisements from birth, it is not surprising obesity rates are soaring. I mean, what kind of child won’t want to eat these foods?

If eating cereal will give me a bunch of digital bear friends that dance with me, I’M IN! But seriously, I HIGHLY recommend watching Consuming Kids if you are interested in learning more about advertisements targeted towards kids and the dangers on their health and well-being.

I do think that technology is messing with our body and minds. I’m very skeptical WiFi exposure may lower men’s sperm count since there is “no official scientific consensus around the potential health risks from radiofrequencies.” However, I know that I have struggled with sleep since the start of high school. I am fairly sure this partly because my melatonin is disrupted when I am in front of a computer screen all day. Come on, melatonin! Get it together.

Mental health is also being affected by our consumption of the digital world. I know many children have to combat cyberbullying and how people who use social media “frequently have 2.7 times the likelihood of depression.”  People are comparing themselves to the “highlight reels” they find on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  I remember posting pictures of Ireland and people being amazed by how beautiful it was. I decided to upload a video of how windy it was to show people how pictures can be deceiving (it was still beautiful but we stayed there for about 5 minutes because of the weather). It’s a tiny example of a much bigger problem: You never get to see what is really going on. The picture and video below were taken minutes apart.

Cliffs of Moher Ireland

Cliffs of Moher lookin’ beauty.

I feel like I have gone full attack mode into how technology is terrible for our health. Obviously, there are many sides to this story. My future-debate-partner-in-crime Bob Yake describes how “technology – particularly wearable biometric technology – can have very positive effects on a person’s health. I suffer from Myasthenia Gravis, a progressive neuro-muscular disease, and I can personally attest to the value of wearable biometric devices. I use an apple watch that is paired with my phone and has been an important way for me to track my drug schedule, my energy levels, daily food intake, and my insulin dosages. I can then share this data with my family physician, neurologist, and endocrinologist so everyone is on the same page treatment-wise.” I think it’s important to look at this issue from a variety of perspectives. I have applications on my phone that remind me to take medication (which I am terrible at doing– Sorry, mom.) or keeping track of my sleep schedule and the steps I take in a day.

I think it’s amazing that new technologies are being invented every day that can help people become healthier. I don’t know what the answer is, but technology is not going anywhere so it’s important to come up with solutions to these new problems. Who knows, innovative technologies may be the answer for some of the issues it’s causing right now.

We can’t expect children and adolescence to know the harm that comes from heavy technology use. We also can’t expect children to suddenly break free from unhealthy food and technology consumption when they have grown up in a time where the digital world revolves around their every desire.

  • Koskie Out!

2 thoughts on “Consider (but fail at) Taking a Break.

  1. I really like the point you made about viewers not seeing what’s actually going on. I have a photographer friend who is considering doing a creative project involving photographing single mom’s lifestyles within their home. She is in the planning stages but her thoughts are to find moms interested in welcoming her into their homes, unannounced, to photograph what motherhood really looks like…not an edited, dusted, vacuumed, and perfectly organized home. I think this could be a really powerful project if people would be willing to show something other than the perfect, filtered version of their lives.

  2. Great post! I agree with how shocking the ads targeted at young viewers is these days. That, paired with gaming has created a shocking trend. Thus, I present you: game fuel.

    http://www.mountaindew.com/products/game-fuel

    Somehow, caffeinated mountain dew provides you with the energy to play video games.

    As for the facebook comparisons, I share your concern. I remember reading a quote somewhere: “Don’t compare yourself to everyone else’s highlight reel”. It seems fitting.

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