The American Psychological Association’s Stress in AmericaTM poll shows parents struggling to balance personal and family technology use.
I hate talking on the phone. I find it to be a necessary evil. Many years ago, my wife forced me to get a cellphone. I had fought getting a phone, simply because I hate talking on the phone. Little did I realize at the time that the flip phone would soon evolve into the smartphone. I still detest talking on the phone, but nowadays, talking on the phone is one of the least used features of a phone.
I was in my mid-twenties when I got my first phone. My, how the times have changed. Now, children on average are getting their first smartphones around age 10, and some children are as young as 6.
Technology is Changing Everything, Including the Need to Track Tech-Related Stress
Since 2007, the American Psychological Association has commissioned an annual nationwide survey to examine the state of stress across the country and understand its impact.
The Stress in America™ survey measures attitudes and perceptions of stress among the general public and identifies leading sources of stress, common behaviors used to manage stress and the impact of stress on our lives. The results of the survey draw attention to the serious physical and emotional implications of stress and the inextricable link between the mind and body.
For the first time in the survey’s 10-year history, APA released it in two parts, with the second section focusing on stress related to technology and social media. Although technology has improved life for many Americans, several studies have also identified consequences of technology use, including negative impacts on physical and mental health.
“The key to engaging with technology and social media is responsible use that promotes connection and contentment.”
Stress and the “Constant Checker”
Avid technology and social media use have created the “constant checker” — those who constantly check their emails, texts or social media accounts Forty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as “constant checkers.” This attachment to devices and the constant use of technology is associated with higher stress levels for these Americans.
The Difficulty of a “Digital Detox”
Sixty-five percent of Americans somewhat or strongly agree that periodically “unplugging” or taking a “digital detox” is important for their mental health. However, only 28 percent of those agree about the importance of a detox actually report doing so.
Millennials and Social Media: It’s Complicated
Ninety-three percent of Millennials report that they are somewhat or very comfortable with technology.
Thirty-six percent of Millennials report that social media has helped them find their identity. However, almost half (48 percent) worry about the negative effects of social media on their physical and mental health.
Are Tech Guidelines for Children Realistic?
The American Academy of Pediatrics established recommendations for children’s media use. The current recommendations advise:
- For children under 18 months, avoid screen-based media except video chatting.
- For children 18 months to 24 months, parents should choose high-quality programming and watch with their children.
“Almost half (48 percent) of parents say that regulating their child’s screen time is a constant battle…”
- For children 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming.
- For children 6 and up, establish consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media.
Most guidelines place too much emphasis on quantity of time and not enough on providing guidance for parents.
Parenting, Connection, and the Tech Battle
Findings show that 72 percent of parents believe they model a healthy relationship with technology for their children. However, they may struggle to maintain balance, with fifty-eight percent of parents reporting that they feel like they are they are attached to their phone or tablet.
The struggle with technology usage extends to their children as well. Almost half (48 percent) of parents say that regulating their child’s screen time is a constant battle, and more than half of parents (58 percent) report feeling like their child is attached to their phone or tablet. More than half of parents (58 percent) say that they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health.
Teen Daughters Significant Concern for Parents
Parents of teen girls are significantly more likely to report that they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health (69 percent, compared to 39 percent of parents of teen boys).
Teen girls are more likely to use social media to communicate, which could expose them to the negative effects of this medium. According to a recent study in Pediatrics, in the U.S. more teen girls than boys may be experiencing major depressive episodes.
Are You Looking to Take Control of Your Tech Habits?
The APA has recommended the following seven strategies to help you use technology in healthy ways.
1. Don’t use phones behind the wheel.
2. Defend your sleep.
3. Turn off notifications.
4. Manage expectations.
5. Use social media wisely.
6. Be present.
7. Take time to recharge.
Are You a Parent That Is Concerned About Your Child’s Tech Use?
Here are some pointers from the APA Help Center to assist you in developing guidelines for safe, satisfying technology use.
1. Don’t overreact.
2. Teach kids about technology from a young age.
3. Use your judgment.
4. Protect bedtime.
5. Pay attention.
6. Teach good online behavior.
7. Discuss digital decision-making.
8. Foster real-life friendships.
Technology is Here to Stay
The key to engaging with technology and social media is responsible use that promotes connection and contentment. Technology is also something we rely on.
The American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence found in their 2013 survey that digital technology helps people to be more flexible and more productive, and makes it easier to get work done. The trick is to take active steps to manage your technology use so the cons don’t override the pros.
“I was in my mid-twenties when I got my first phone. My, how the times have changed.”
To read the full Stress in America report or to download graphics, visit the Stress in America web page.
For additional information on stress, lifestyle and behaviors, visit the Psychology Help Center web page. Join the conversation about stress on Twitter by following @APAHelpCenter and #stressAPA.