ESSEX — In a year where many young people are undergoing change, one thing stays constant – technology. From phones to tablets to computers, technology is an asset to everyday life. In fact, people often have their phones with them from the moment they wake up to the moment they shut their eyes at night, and every day, they receive large amounts of information and content from their devices.

But it begs the question: How much screen time is too much? When do phones start to hinder people’s health rather than serve as a useful tool?

Perhaps an even more pressing question is, ‘How does technology affect youth?’

Young children consume and contribute to popular social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat. From starting trends to creating slang, youth are often the source of popular memes in today’s society, and they have a prominent influence on the digital world.

But does their need to keep up with the latest social media trends negatively affect them? How is that screen time regulated, or should it be?

Phones are important to youth, yet they are sometimes addictive and hard to put down. Because of these reasons, some teenagers have a love-hate relationship with their phones.

16-year-old Bree T., for example, said, “I love staying connected, and I pass time by playing games online with my friends.” But, she added, “I hate the grasp that (my phone) has on me; it is very draining. I don’t want to be attached to it, but I am.”

Technology’s relationship with children and teenagers have good and bad elements. Children use their devices to learn, for example, but parents also struggle to stay aware of everything their children consume.

High school teacher Angela Glenn, who also has three young children, sees the effect that technology has on youth every day.

“Whether it is toddlers who we give devices to watch YouTube, tweens who spend too much time watching YouTube and now TikTok, or teens who mindlessly browse social media thinking their lives are inadequate compared to others, children are often negatively impacted by the exposure their phones and tablets bring.”

Is it possible to change how much people use and depend on technology? Even adults can over-consume digital content, either for work or for fun. During the coronavirus pandemic, nearly every aspect of people’s lives were confined to a computer. After a year of using technology for everything, can people bring down their reliance on it?

Glenn said, “If any of us – toddlers to adults – don’t know how to regulate our use of technology, it will have more of a negative influence than a positive one.”

Everyone has to ultimately strike a balance between using their phones to consume necessary information and taking time away from their phones to experience life in the moment, a.k.a. the here and now.

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