Editorial: Going Offline

Editorial: Going Offline

New England weather isn’t always the most hospitable.

Any Connecticut lifer will tell you that the summers can often be too hot and humid, the winters too cold and snowy, and increasingly it seems we are getting more of those seasons and less of the ones we enjoy — autumn and spring.

Yet, the last few days have been a definite olive branch from Mother Nature — a reminder to all of us as to why we live in this part of the country. Warm and breezy during the day, cool and comfortable at night, with only a hint of humidity in the air, meant everyone could get out and enjoy nature for a while. Hopefully, we can get a few more weeks of that before the air conditioners are turned on for good.

Regardless of where the temperature gauge goes this summer, or how high the dew point gets, one thing should be on our summer plans list: To spend as much time as possible outside our homes and, most importantly, off our electronic devices. After a few years of isolation due to a pandemic, what we need now is less internet and more interaction.

This week, The Herald has some tips, offered by Chesprocott Health District, on how to cut down on screen time this summer, especially for young people. It’s important advice and we highly encourage everyone to take the suggestions to heart and incorporate them into their everyday lives.

Less screen time equals healthier living habits for young people, and establishing those habits now is vital. Obesity has been a problem in our society for years, but the issue was exacerbated by the recent pandemic. According to a study released in the fall of 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the percentage of obese children and teens increased to 22%, compared with 19% before the pandemic. From a mental health standpoint, the issue is even more alarming. According to a more recent CDC study, released in April of this year, in 2021 approximately 37% of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year.

Now, you can’t draw a direct line between these two concerning trends in the physical and mental well-being of teenagers and the use of electronic devices. There are many other factors at work, from the changes in social life caused by the pandemic to anxiety over the state of the world during a public health crisis. Yet, it’s undoubtedly true that more time spent in front of a computer screen or on a phone almost always means less time being active or engaging in meaningful communication with friends and family. And the less time you spend moving or interacting with others, the more likely it is that your physical and mental condition will suffer.

It can also impact a young person’s social and emotional growth, as evidenced by the fact that, according to a Pew Research study conducted prior to the pandemic (2019), 60% of teenage respondents admitted that they would rather spend time online with friends rather than see them in person.

The issue isn’t just relegated to young people. We as a society have a “device problem,” as it were, and need to make conscious efforts to put the phones down or turn off the computers and engage in more substantive activities. That doesn’t mean one has to “go dark” permanently. Too much of our daily lives have an online component to them, making it so that being “off grid” is impossible. But that doesn’t mean there’s a need to be constantly checking one’s phone, constantly engaging on social media, or incessantly scrolling for the next “fix” of internet content.

This past weekend was the perfect time to put down the devices and enjoy the outside world. But regardless of the weather, all of us need to commit to less screen time moving forward.


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