I sat with amusement listening as the Superintendent of Schools presented his rationale for changing the opening time of school from 7:45a.m to 8:30 a.m. “The students are coming to school tired and lacking of sleep.” He reinforced his argument by quoting several articles which supported his argument to change the time of school opening. I had to pinch myself to be sure I was fully ‘awake’ and hearing the argument correctly.
How vivid is my memory when young boys and girls were awakened ‘by the rooster’s crow’ to tend to the farm animals and other chores on the farm before catching that early morning bus for the 8:00 opening of school. The same work habits were repeated in the afternoon. If perchance you played sports and had after school practice the entire process was extended into the late afternoon. Could it be the current generation is suffering from the lack of sleep because they are not going to bed early enough. Duh!! Or, could it be they are addicted and can’t go to sleep because they need a fix?
It is alarming when I read the growing number of youth and adults who are suffering from a obsessive compulsive disorder to the stand point of becoming addicted. A decade after smart-phones were introduced into our lives, research suggests our digital habits are triggering behavioral addictions in 40% of digital users. Digital addiction is no different from other types of addiction in that it scratches a psychological itch. It is an action you return to in the short term that you enjoy and strongly want, but diminishes your long-term well-being.
All of us have seen the full blown version of digital addiction. The constant e-mail checker who can’t engage with their family over a meal, the video game fanatic who mostly stops eating and sleeping to play for days at a time, and the constant ‘staying in touch’ provided by the Iphone crowd. The ultimate is the family or couple who go to a restaurant and never speak but spend their time on the Iphone.
Wanting feedback is what gets some people hooked. Psychologically we feel a ‘high’ when someone is interested in something we have said. Unlike heroin addicts who avoid drugs to stay clean, digital addicts can’t fully escape a wired world.
My advice to the Superintendent who wanted to start school later, at the next PTA meeting or school gathering let parents take a pledge to place all Iphones, Ipads and similar devices on the kitchen table before going to bed. Create sacred parts of the day that are screen free—start with dinnertime and expand from there. Your goal is to reach a point where you will not be craving a “digital fix.’ This is an addiction with far reaching ramifications and must be stopped