The president of the Partnership for a Drug Free Iowa says summer should be a time for kids to play at the park, ride bikes and learn how to paddle a canoe, not to while away the hours on Facebook, and parents should limit a teen’s access to social media, internet and TV during summer vacation.
Peter Komendowski says too much screen time can raise the risk of alcohol and substance abuse. “Children are not happy if they spend an excessive amount of time on Facebook,” Komendowski says. “We’ve even heard children say things like, ‘I OD’d on Facebook.’ They start sensing that there’s a problem with how much involvement there is and what we forget as parents is they count on us to lead them and to give them guidance as to what to do.”
Social media can be a very antisocial experience, he says, when it reduces the actual time spent in activities with friends and family members. Komendowski says, “Studies are showing that the more time children spend on the media as a basis of how many hours a week they spend doing things, the more difficult time they have structuring decisions when it comes to high-risk behavior.”
Too much social media and screen time can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression, which he says is setting the stage for substance abuse and other high risk behavior. Smart phones aren’t evil, he says, but they need to be used properly. “If you use your cell phone to make a date with somebody to meet at the ball field to play ball or to go to a movie, that’s a great tool,” Komendowski says. “But if you’re spending all of your time just interacting on the media, the risks in terms of how children feel, their psychological strength, their behavioral sort of aptitude, those things begin to get diminished.”
He says parental involvement in youth-focused media improves a children’s physical health, sleep, school performance and social behaviors. The average American teen spends 35 hours a week in the classroom and more than 55 hours a week engaged in social media, video games, television and internet activities.