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  • Writer's pictureDr. Edan M. Alcalay

Our Youth and the Digital Era

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

The Digital Era

Adolescents spend almost 8 hours per day in front of a screen (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010)….Couple that with media multi-tasking, watching a movie and texting or facebooking while surfing the Internet, and it now jumps to 10 hours per day. That 1/3 of a kid’s life is in front of a screen!!!

How is that not going to influence our youth? Anxiety has risen over the past 30 years, ADHD has increased, and Obesity. 25% of youths are diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder, 1 in 9 have ADHD and Obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents. Alarming!!

Where did it all begin… Ronald Reagan. Well, in the 1980’s the Reagan Administration promoted Free Enterprise, ‘let the people govern themselves’. Businesses flourished, economic freedom, somewhat. Just prior to that, in the 1970’s the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a ban on advertising to children. In the 1980’s, nonetheless, Congress refuted this and called the FTC a “National Nanny”. Marketing companies exploded with advertising campaigns targeting children. The “Nag Factor” was developed where companies learned that if they convince children vis-a-vis commercials to buy their products, they would “Nag” their parents to purchase it.

It gets worse, a study by Chen et al. (1999) found that 1 extra hour of MTV was associated with an increased in potential adolescent alcohol abuse by 31%. Socially, marketing companies have glorified alcohol in order to create an alluring attraction. Not only are the effects of alcohol reinforcing, but the social lubrication and communal component has its benefits as well. With identity being one of the developmental components of adolescents, marketing companies through branding can contaminate this identity search. The branding that companies project on the public becomes the integral part of the self (Aaker, 1996). Through various forms of advertising, marketers embed their brand into the psyche of their target population. Specifically, U.S. Television alcohol advertising has reached 89% of youths under the legal drinking age (i.e., ages 12 to 20) (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2008). When the Federal Trade Commission looked into this issue, they stated that there is some evidence that advertising plays a role on underage drinking, yet it is “far from conclusive” (Federal Trade Commission, 1999; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). However, subsequent studies looked at 13 longitudinal studies published in peer-reviewed literature, following up a total of more than 38,000 young people (18 and younger) from 13 studies to assess the impact of marketing on adolescents, suggested that exposure to media is associated with a greater probability that adolescents will commence alcohol consumption, or consume more if they are already drinking at baseline (Anderson, De Bruijn, Angus, Gordon, & Hastings, 2009).

What can a parent do?

  • Eliminate background TV.

  • Keep an open communication

  • Set school day rules.

  • Avoid using TV and video or computer games as a reward

  • Unplug it.

    • You might designate one day a week a screen-free day

  • Suggest other activities.

    • Classic activities, such as reading, playing a sport or trying a new board game.

  • Set a good example

  • Make viewing an event.

    • Plan to see a movie in a theater.

    • Choose a show and pick a specific time to watch it.

  • Watch with your adolescent. — and talk about what you see.

  • Record programs.

    • This will allow you to skip or fast-forward through commercials

    • Pause a program when you want to discuss something you've watched — such as a depiction of family values, violence or drug abuse.

  • During live programs, use the MUTE button during commercials.

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