Staff Editorial: Kids deserve iPhone autonomy

Some countries have started setting limits on screen time and video games. GRAPHIC BY HALEY KEIZUR/FOGHORN

Teenagers in the U.S. average seven hours of screen time per day, not including time spent on school and homework. Some adults spend as many as 12 hours a day staring at screens, nearly five times more than our counterparts 50 years ago. And the stats are on the rise — each year, average screen time increases.

Screens have greatly influenced our generation, particularly during our teenage and young adult years. It is important to note that screen time includes multi-tasking, such as watching television while doing chores, FaceTiming friends or family, or texting. However, the majority of our time is spent on social media and less productive sites, such as YouTube and gaming programs. There have been numerous studies linking this increase of screen time to lack of focus in students, less emotional stability, and an increase in mental health issues, leading many to want to limit screen usage for young people.

In November, China set a time limit for the amount of time youths can play video games. Those younger than 18 are no longer allowed to play video games past 10 p.m. and must play less than 90 minutes on weekdays, and less than three hours on weekends. They must also limit their monetary spendings on virtual add-ons. The goal of this measure is to combat screen addiction since this affects the physical and mental health of minors. In Taiwan, parents are now legally obligated to monitor the screen time of children under 18. Similar to China and other laws in South Korea, the intent is to limit screen time to a healthy level, although it’s still unclear what that level is. The new law equates the consequences of excess screen time to smoking, drinking, and drug use, and parents can be fined up to $1,595.

Many researchers have considered this as an option for the U.S. But the question is, would this be realistic or helpful for American youth? Those who spend more time on screens are more likely to have depression or anxiety, according to a recent study published in Preventive Medicine Reports. With the prevalence of mental health issues in our community, could stricter screen time guidelines improve the mental health of many of us college students?

Personally, we at the Foghorn believe that the government controlling screen time would be a little intense. Not only would it be difficult to monitor, but where would they draw the line between screen time for pleasure and for school? Although this might be appropriate for young children, teenagers and young adults should have more autonomy. 

Also, a ban could strike up rebellious behavior that could make the situation worse once people grow beyond the age ban upon turning 18. Oftentimes, taking something away makes teens want it more — it’s now a forbidden fruit and a hot commodity, rather than a normal part of life. Instead, we believe it would be more suitable to encourage a decrease in screen time or to increase education about the negative effects. Most of us currently in college didn’t have smartphones when we were growing up, let alone when our brains were still developing — and we turned out okay. 

The limit on screen time could potentially be effective for future generations who grow up in the age of iPhones and tablets; however, because technology is embedded into our daily lives and education, we believe we need to change with the times as opposed to swimming against the current and rejecting technology as it advances. Imposing limitations seems like more of a parental issue than a federal issue. There should be more attention spent on the content of what kids are watching and looking at, rather than the exact amount of time they spend on it. Hours of James Charles’ YouTube videos are different than hours of John and Hank Green’s “Crash Course” episodes. 

For now, the government has no say on how many hours we can waste away in the abyss that is the Internet, scrolling aimlessly at Twitter rant posts or in the depths of our crush’s Instagram. However, students should ultimately be conscious of how excess screen time can affect sleep and attention and make efforts to find positivity and productivity in our screen time.


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