The Rising Epidemic of People Tied to Their Screens
by Rebecca Sugerman
Technology permeates our lives. In the most recent season of Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s podcast, Chasing Life, he focuses on how technology and screen usage impact our brains, bodies, and regular routine. The episode “How Much Screen Time is Too Much” explores how to manage the amount of time we spend on our devices.
Gupta paints the picture of how connected we are to screens and social media platforms by beginning the episode with a description of a college freshman so addicted to Tik Tok that he accidentally pulled an all-nighter from scrolling on the app until the sun came up. This highlights how addiction to screens needs to be addressed, and Gupta specifies that this is a difficult issue to tackle because there is no standard way to define, measure, or treat internet addiction. Rather, it is something we acknowledge is bad for our health and that many people need help.
For the remainder of the episode, listeners hear from Dr. Michael Rich, who calls himself a “Mediatrician.” He treats young patients who are struggling with problematic media use. Rich finds that when parents worry their children are withdrawing from their family, their schoolwork, their friends, and their daily life, they come to him for help.
Rich talks about what might be causing children to be so obsessed with their screens, and he explains that many of his patients have underlying conditions such as OCD, anxiety, and general stress. He sees their abuse of social media and technology as an attempt at self-care, but in reality, it is actually amplifying their conditions. He believes that even without social media, the children he sees would likely still engage in some type of hyper-binge activity.
Rich describes his approach to guiding his patients to see technology as a tool. He tries to help them learn how to use it in a safe way, rather than reprimanding them and asking them to abstain. He is realistic and wants to help his patients in a practical manner, seeing that technology is a skill of our time and is intertwined in our daily routine.
Listen to the episode here.