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Too much screen time?

Posted on January 22, 2014 by Lethbridge Sun Times

We are a connected society.

The Internet, home computers, cellphones and tablets allow us to stay in contact with people around the world like never before. A quick text, a Facebook update or a tweet can let those important to us know exactly what is going on in our lives at any given time.

In this age of social media overload, there is little excuse to find yourself out of touch with that cousin in the United States, your favourite uncle on the East Coast or that high-school best friend you have not seen for a decade.

But a recent online poll conducted by Ipsos, on behalf of Google, points out Canadians are spending a startling amount of time on such activities on their electronic devices. The poll states smartphone owners estimate they spend 90 per cent of their free time with their eyes fixed on a screen.

The poll included 28,000 Canadians, and indicates those who do own a smartphone are certainly a connected bunch. Almost every one of those 28,000 also had a computer, while 88 per cent of them had a television and almost 40 per cent also had a tablet. When it comes to enjoying content on those screens, which also included e-readers, poll respondents said 86 per cent of their free time was taken up with screen time. That amounts to about seven hours a day.

Most also spend time each week using their digital devices simultaneously. Watching a television program, while trying to crack the next level on Candy Crush on your phone at the same time, is becoming more and more of a pattern for Canadians. Ask anyone, and that type of multi-platform use of electronics is ever increasing. With a generation of youth virtually growing up with iPods and tablets, that trend is likely poised to not only continue, but increase in frequency.

As a society, we should be concerned. Less and less time is being spent on face-to-face interaction, as young people are growing up isolated by the very technology meant to connect them. Sooner or later, this will catch up with them. Out in the real world, there are not many jobs which do not require interaction with the public or your co-workers. A hermit-like existence, with nothing but a screen to occupy your time, is not what those entering the workforce can expect. But it is more than just about adapting to your work environment. In a world where nearly everything is available at the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen, normal everyday interactions are being replaced by methods of communication which are much more impersonal.

Spending time away from that screen, leaving your smartphone behind and getting out to experience what is actually around us is critical. It will not be long before technology evolves even further to make such interactions with the real world even easier to avoid.

As the lure of technology grows, our desire to experience things for ourselves must not be muted to a point where leaving the comfort of our homes becomes foreign to us. Sometimes, staying connected with people requires an actual face-to-face encounter.

There is no technology that can replicate that experience.

An editorial from the Lethbridge Herald

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