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Excessive use of media

No one will contest it anymore, we have entered the media age. The flood of information we are facing is huge. The knowledge is doubling every five to twelve years, and this rate is accelerating rather than slowing down. We watch the news, read newspapers and magazines, surf the Internet and look at various websites and blogs. We listen to the radio, we tweet, and at the same time we are active on the social network. This begins in the morning as soon as we get up. Then follows us over a smartphone to school or the workplace respectively and does not stop before we go to bed, being active on the computer or TV. All day long we are looking at screens, in an attempt to stay up to date. Whether it is politics, your circle of friends or just the latest inventions, we need to know everything. And even if we do not know something, we quickly look it up in one of our intelligent devices.

Excessive media use
Excessive media use | ©: Sabphoto - Fotolia

Life in the media age

It seems we are just moving from screen to screen and that all day long and every day. School has swapped the blackboard for a digital whiteboard and your notepad is replaced by a notebook. Homework is done on a computer, while at the same time being on Facebook and WhatsApp. If that happens to get boring, there is still the entire Internet to keep you entertained. Kids are getting distracted from sites like or emotional blogs like But, having said all that, there are still those parents who are actively trying to restrict the media use of their children. Unfortunately, the number of those who spend most of their lives in front of a monitor is still on the rise. Thereby, regrettably, increasing the number of those who spend their lives and those of their children for the most part in front of a monitor.

Exploring the bush, building a tree houses, playing football or just meeting up with some friends; it seems those activities have become foreign concepts. Gradually, the digital world infiltrates every corner of our lives. In America, this situation has deteriorated so far that children forget to eat and drink and subsequently die after and 40hrs games marathon. Needless to say, that is only the exception but it shows the direction we are inevitably moving to. There is an increasing number of dependency clinics opening and in particular for computer addiction. The withdrawal symptoms are not small and very similar to drug addictions. Sprawling media use is just another drug such as cigarettes, cannabis and sugar. We just cannot continue to hand our children over to those drugs. At least the use of it must be contained.

What is happening to our children?

In many ways the health of our children is massively at risk, media is making us sick. It begins with a slow social disconnection and might go as far as for some children to develop antisocial personality traits. Secondly there is an enormous lack of movement by sitting in front of the screen all day long. An Australian study found that after more than six hours a day, over a period of 10 years, the quality life expectancy drops by a full 7 years. Just imagine, many young people spend more than 10 hrs daily with next to no movement. Many become overweight, as they eat and eat without burning the calories. Last but not least our eyes are heavily burdened by the never-ending looking at screens. Not to mention our psyche, which takes a harsh hit.

In addition to the loss of many important social skills, lack of exercise and overweight, children and young people live in a dream world. They are watching movies where the greatest problems of humanity are solved within 120 minutes. They are playing games where they experience incredible adventures and watch short movies where drug dealers and criminals are glorified. This has a tremendous impact on the minds of our youth. No longer to the see the world as it really is. They found a new world. The digital world, which appears to be so much better, much more exciting. However, this is utterly absurd. Young people are getting an entirely wrong idea of reality and are massively manipulated. Just think of short movies such as “Twenty Four” where torture is commonplace. It raises the question, a fan of Jack Bauer, what kind of attitude may he have towards torture. Or what does someone think about drugs, who likes to watch "The Breaking Bad"? Largely, media dictates what our children are supposed to think, and determine, which values are important and which you can neglect. We must not allow that! - For the obvious reason: the current media has not the best for our children in mind.

A rational approach to media use

It is important to keep our children away from the media world. It does not matter whether it comes to violent films, online role-playing games or news. And not just for children and young people. Most adults would benefit from cutting down their media use as well. After all, whenever you pick up a newspaper, you realize it is a grim world we live in. Newspaper realized, humankind strongly responds to scandals and repulsive content . Therefore they give us exactly what we want – bad news. This does not mean that reading newspapers is wrong, but that too much reading newspapers is not necessarily good for you either. Ideally we should return to nature and to who we are, distancing ourselves from the media (dictated) world. Media use is only good for you as long as it serves you. Its overuse, however, will harm you. By implementing simple rules and changing your behavior, you can limit the media use. Here are a few ideas on how to protect yourself as well as your children from this ongoing manipulation:

Ideas for limited media use

Instead of just specifying a number of hours on the computer, TV, etc. it is better to create time windows. For example: watching TV only between 6 – 9 pm. The same can be done with computer games and consoles. It is important to create those windows in a way that computer and TV are turned off an hour before going to bed. The idea behind is to give your child time so he does not go to sleep with those negative images in his mind. It is also smart to turn off you smartphone every now and then. For example, at work or at school, it might be totally unnecessary to have your mobile switched on. It is a seriously bad habit, taking your mobile to school and rather paying attention to the lesson you spend your time on Facebook. A cheap mobile, for emergency use only, might be an alternative. Likewise, it might be a good idea, to get your mobile out of your pocket every now and then and place it somewhere, where it is not all that easy to access.

You also can enlist the help of software developers. There are excellent programs available, which will help you to block certain websites. This can be done temporarily or permanently. For example, even if your child needs the internet to complete his homework, you could consider, just for the time being to block Facebook, YouTube and other addictive and distracting sites. The best advice however is, to minimize the access to computers and televisions. Another alternative: children and young people do not need their own PC or TV in their bedroom. For example, they could borrow the laptop from the living room for a couple of hours a day. Televisions, computers, and Co. are helpful, but in many cases they become an escape from reality into an ideal and hassle-free digital world.

Conclusion – Cutting down the Media Usage

Media has two major tasks. One is to inform us and the second is, to entertain us. Both are getting more and more out of control. Keeping the health of our children in mind, it’s time to take some counter-measurements. It is long proven that this excessive use is not healthy. Therefore, it is recommended to use the opportunities offered to us by the media only within reasonable limits. There is nothing wrong surfing the net for an hour daily, watch a good movie or play a game on your computer.

Excessive media use - Always online with your smartphone
Excessive media use
Always online with your smartphone | ©: diez-artwork - Fotolia

This should be sufficient. It is much healthier to go back and explore the world, gather real experiences instead of losing ourselves in this unreal and manipulative media world. With this in mind, there is a great quote from the well-known and respected German psychologists and psychiatrists Dr. Manfred Spitzer. He said in a lecture on the topic of youth media protection in the Hesse state parliament:

"Screen media makes you fat, inattentive, reduces performance in school and leads to more violence in the real world. Who doubts this, did either not read the scientific studies it or he is lying. "

Youth group work with teens and their smartphone

It seems the smartphone is glued into the hands of young people. There is no group activity without kids being stuck to their phones, writing on WhatsApp, surf the Internet or share images. The dependencies on digital media has become immensely - even for adults. Have you ever observed people in the subway? 9 out of 10 people stare into their smartphone and appear to be entirely absent minded. Can you really blame young people if they just repeat what they see from their adult role models?

To renounce your mobile for going on a summer camp for two weeks is almost unthinkable, yet, possible. It offers young people an alternative to getting to know the real world, to build social contacts without retreating or taking refuge in an unreal world.

Everyone can test his own dependency on those devices. Just withdraw from them for a while and see what happens. How do you react? How do you feel? Is it doable? Why not? Or ask yourself those questions: Why do I need to take refuge in an anonymous, unreal world? Why do we prefer to hide behind a PC or a smartphone instead of talking to somebody face to face? Uncertainty? Underdeveloped interpersonal skills? What are we experiencing behind the PC? What are we experiencing in real life; in our spare time and with our peers?

I know of young people who deliberately deleted their Facebook & Co account because they simply grew tired of the compulsion always having to look if somebody posted something. Only to find out, whatever was posted are trivial, meaningless posts being merely a waste of time.

It's nice to see when children and young people once again learn to meet on the football field to kick the footy, do things together and want to spend leisure time with their peers.

Let us help them by leading by example.

[ © | 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work ] - 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work
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