Teenage addiction to technology, especially internet applications, is a growing concern among experts and families alike. It is not a new phenomenon, it’s been around as long as smartphones. Yet the conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have considerably aggravated this pathology. Along with the devastating effects on the economy and society, the pandemic has led to an increase in addictions, including the dependence of young people on screens. Most of them have had to do classes from home, studying with the same tools that they use for fun: the computer, the tablet, and the smartphone.
Far from diminishing the need for contact with friends and colleagues, the lockdown did quite the opposite. Face-to-face encounters, contact in the playground or in the street, have almost been replaced by virtual contact. Audio messaging and video calls have greatly increased, online games and remotely shared movie sessions are more and more common among young people. Unlike other addictions, this one has a more general impact and creates almost no barriers to access. That makes it much more threatening. It also opens the door to future addictions and behavioural and mental health disorders that could affect an entire generation that, in perhaps a matter of just a decade, will have to join the world of work, and to even start running companies, businesses and institutions.
No doubt many of the skills acquired as a result of a childhood spent using technology will be very necessary and important in the development of this work, but they will not have been taught how to avoid the risks. Sadly, the current education system is not orientated towards doing this. This is one of the lessons we can learn from the pandemic, and take the opportunity to guide today’s students into the world of tomorrow.
So, if you are worried that your teenager, or even you, might be a digital addict, then reading our features Living online (pages 14-19) and Hooked on phones (pages 20-23) might help raise your awareness about such a worrying issue in our society and help focus on new healthier habits. And maybe help set new rules for 2022! Happy New Year!