For so long, technology was thought to be a hindrance from real engagement and connection with the world, but today, technology is the very thing that makes connection possible. During this pandemic, people of all ages rely on technology for education, social connection, entertainment, and even their livelihoods. Students from pre-school to graduate school who are fortunate enough to have decent access to technology have transitioned to online learning and workers have transitioned to working from home. With COVID-19 restrictions, many shops and restaurants have turned online, paving the way for many new businesses. Even more importantly, technology has played a crucial role in public education, provision of physical and mental health care services, and data gathering that has saved lives in this pandemic. With children and adults learning, working, shopping, finding leisure, and gaining information online, the internet has granted us the possibility of engaging with the world without having to leave our homes.
Common concerns to the use of technology on children and adolescents had been related to the decrease of time spent outside of the home for physical and extracurricular activities and social connections as well as time invested in academics and family relations inside of the house (Tsitsika et al., 2014; O’Keefe et al., 2011; Shapiro & Margolin, 2013). With many children and adolescents staying home and spending most of their time on-screen during this pandemic, these concerns are coming true. At such a time as this, it is important to ask, “How does the increase in screen time during the pandemic affect the mental health of Indonesian children and youths?”
Despite all of the advantages granted to us by technology, it cannot be denied that technology’s excessive and uncontrolled use is dangerous. A nationwide survey done by Dr Kristiana Siste Kurniasanti in June 2020, states that internet addiction in adolescents has increased by 19.3% since the pandemic. 59% of these 2,933 participants from 33 provinces claim to experience an increase in screen time to an average of 11.6 hours a day (Dwianto, 2020). Various scholars have found that in adolescents, excessive screen time may link with physical health problems such as difficulties with sleeping (Shapiro & Margolin, 2013) and body pain (Titsika et al., 2014). It also links with cognitive issues, such as memory problems (Sparrow et. al., 2011), focuses (Baumgartner et al., 2017); and self-regulation (Larose et al., 2003) as well as socioemotional problems related to self-esteem and bullying (Shapiro & Margolin, 2013).
Effects of uncontrolled screen time on younger children are even more jarring. According to 2018 data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States, 9- and 10-year-olds with screen time of more than two hours a day scored lower on language and thinking tests. Furthermore, those who spend more than seven hours a day on-screen activities are found to experience a thinning of the brain’s cortex, which is related to critical thinking and reasoning. For children under the age of 3, excessive screen time limits the child’s ability to observe, experience, and learn from the events happening around them, which is crucial for building imagination, creativity, language skills, social skills, and other abilities. Although it appears that children may observe and learn from what is on screen, studies have shown that children under 2 learn more from another person than from on screen and children younger than 2 will not typically understand what is presented on screen (What Does Too Much Screen Time Do to Kids’ Brains? 2020).
Although some parents may be tempted to throw their children’s gadget out the window, there is a way to enjoy technology’s advantages without compromising on health and connection. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends:
- Avoid screen use for children younger than 18-24 months.
- Limit screen use for preschool children ages 2-5 to an hour a day of high-quality programming (Media programs that are educational, engaging, and fun)
- Limit the time and type of media children between 6–12-year-old access and make sure it does not replace adequate sleep and physical activity.
- Plan media-free times together with children of 12 years and older such as gadget-free meals and family times.
(What Does Too Much Screen Time Do to Kids’ Brains? 2020).
As it is becoming more and more apparent that technology is part of the new fabric of life, the effects of technology on child and adolescents development must be known, continue to be researched and taken into consideration in personal lifestyle decisions and public interventions. As scholars continue to widen research on the various effects of technology on children’s development, and public institutions continue to develop regulations and interventions accordingly, it is important for individuals and families to make well informed decisions to optimize technology as an agent of liberation, not a limitation to the healthy development of children and adolescents.
Baumgartner, S. E., Schuur, W. A. V. D., Lemmens, J. S., & Poel, F. T. (2017). The Relationship Between Media Multitasking and Attention Problems in Adolescents: Results of Two Longitudinal Studies. Human Communication Research. https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12111
Dwianto, A. R. Kecanduan Internet di RI Meningkat Lima Kali Lipat Selama Pandemi Corona. https://health.detik.com/berita-detikhealth/d-5121236/kecanduan-internet-di-ri-meningkat-lima-kali-lipat-selama-pandemi-corona.
Larose, R., Lin, C. A., & Eastin, M. S. (2003). Unregulated Internet Usage: Addiction, Habit, or Deficient Self-Regulation? Media Psychology, 5(3), 225–253. https://doi.org/10.1207/s1532785xmep0503_01
Martellozzo, E. (2020, December 23). Life is digital by default – so what’s the impact on young people’s mental health? Media at LSE. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/medialse/2020/12/21/life-is-digital-by-default-so-whats-the-impact-on-young-peoples-mental-health/.
O’keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. Pediatrics, 127(4), 800–804. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-0054
Shapiro, L. A. S., & Margolin, G. (2013). Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 17(1), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-013-0135-1
Sparrow, B., Liu, J., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips. Science, 333(6043), 776–778. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1207745
Tsitsika, A. K., Tzavela, E. C., Janikian, M., Ólafsson, K., Iordache, A., Schoenmakers, T. M., … Richardson, C. (2014). Online Social Networking in Adolescence: Patterns of Use in Six European Countries and Links With Psychosocial Functioning. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55(1), 141–147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.11.010
What Does Too Much Screen Time Do to Kids’ Brains? (2020, October 5). https://healthmatters.nyp.org/what-does-too-much-screen-time-do-to-childrens-brains/.