For the last several months I have been researching what impact too much screen time can have on our kids. As I have gone deeper and deeper into the research I found that both young girls and young boys suffer under the consequences of too much screen time. But overwhelmingly, it is the boys, our future young men who suffer the major consequences associated with too much screen time.
Scientists have mapped out the brain growth in individual children and teenagers and have shown that during the ages of three and twelve there are some hardwired connections made in the front of the brain. This is the area that controls attention. These are connections that must be made for young men to function cognitively in the world. But those connections are being broken, or at best, rewired during their over use of screens.
Other studies show that those connections being made are not for the benefit of the young man. Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane in their book Growing Up Social say, “With increased screen use, the neural circuits that control the more traditional learning methods used for reading, writing, and sustained concentration are neglected.”
So it is not only that an abundance of screen time is rewiring the brains of our young men but that it is rewiring it in such a way that these young men are not gaining proficiency in areas that will help them grow. Their brains are being broken in the areas that are specifically needed to help them excel in school and in life.
Their reading levels are lower. Their writing abilities are hindered. They are no longer able to concentrate. One study found, “Tissue development can be retarded in certain parts of the brain, especially among young children whose brains are developing rapidly. The human brain is genetically wired to develop in natural, sensorial, and kinesthetic settings by doing things with one’s senses. A brain that develops in front of a screen for too long can miss out on its natural growth trajectory.”
This rewiring sets young men back in their mental development. This is something that we cannot afford to allow to continue. This decreased mental capacity leads to other problems as they grow into their adult years.
There is more research out there that I could share with you but hopefully you see that our young men are facing a problem today. It is a problem that they are not even aware of. We, as adults, must begin to work on solutions. I am afraid that our young men are going to be stuck in adolescence. I am scared that we are not developing creative, thoughtful, virtuous men. What can be done? I offer two points of action.
By reading the information in this article you have been introduced to some of the facts available about the consequences of too much screen time for our young men. But you should also do some real life research.
Watch the young men around you. What happens when they play video games for a while? Do you notice a change in their attitude? Do you notice any behavior changes? Have you noticed a change in performance in school as your young man spends more time in front of a screen? As you become more aware of what happens you will realize that screen time is not neutral in the life of the young men around you. Hopefully this new found awareness will move you to action.
Young men are wired to be challenged. They are wired to grow through challenges. Frankly, we do not challenge our young men enough. We do not challenge them to grow emotionally or mentally or even physically. Why are they so drawn to video games that deal with war and fighting? Because they long for challenges. Video games offer challenges and adventures that our young men are not having in the real world. False world challenges are not challenges at all. We must begin challenging our young men to grow and develop in the real world.
Challenge them to read a book. Challenge them to serve their community. Challenge them to learn a sport. Challenge them to learn to play a musical instrument. Challenge them to learn another language. Challenge them to memorize Scripture. The possibilities are endless. Find something they are interested in and challenge them to grow in that area.
It is my opinion that we cannot wait any longer to act. Our world is hurting for men. It is hurting for men that can think. Men that can solve problems. Men that stand on principles. Men that will fight for what is right. You and I are responsible for developing this generation of boys into men.
Let us get to it!
“Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned to learn.” – Alvin Toffler
Richard Hawthorne grew up in Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner) but now lives in the Panhandle of Texas. He received his M.Div. from Criswell College in 2012. He has served in student ministry for 6 years.
He has been married for 12 years and has three daughters. He loves to spend time with his girls and is actively preparing for the day when they begin dating…..at the age of 25! He also loves to buy books and sometimes read them. His wife has had to set a monthly budget to control his monthly book purchases.
He also loves to connect with other like-minded in people in ministry. He especially likes to write and you can read some other stuff he has written on his blog sameshirtyesterday.net
He would love to connect with you on social media!
Instagram and twitter @rahawthorne