Media Technology and Mental Health

By Courtney A. Faunce, MA 

We all recognize the longstanding controversy on media’s effect on children and teens. Does the content influence our personalities and behaviors? Or are we immune the any negative effect media may possible have over us? 

Maybe the question is not so much what are we gaining from engaging in various forms of media, but what are we losing? What have our phones, televisions, commercials, dare I say Facebook replaced? 

Patience and Solitude 

There is no doubt using Google to fact check has been a savior in desperate times. However, we sometimes see ourselves easily frustrated without having access to our devices. Having internet and free WiFi have seemingly become a basic need for Americans. This allows us to always be connected by posting moments of our lives online in real time. The concept of instant gratification starts to spill over into other areas of our thinking. In terms of our mental health, there is no "quick fix". We have to consciously repel our urges to fix the problem and focus on our feelings, thoughts, and truly process in order to achieve mental wellness. 

Amplification of Negativity   

In The Other Parent by James P. Streyer, he writes that over the past sixty years media has calculatedly become like a stranger in your home. Our children are exposed to these various forms of media for much longer periods of time than ever before. Broadcasting companies no longer produce public interest media content. Rather, content material is precisely chosen to increase ratings and shareholder earnings. It can be easily understood that amplifying tragedies and exploiting the latest scandal is what currently gets our attention and drives up the ratings. The constant replay of negative headlines and consumerism starts to incite the same mindset in us and in our children. 

Quality Time Together 

Television programs were originally developed to bring families together. Of course, some shows and media continue to bring families together. At the same time, parents must be mindful to balance quality time together and excessive use of media and technology in replace of authentic human interaction. Quality time talking, discussing, debating, learning, teaching, and modeling body language are essential for child and teen development. We must talk and learn to communicate with each other in our own homes so that our kids will have the foundation to be successful communicators outside of the home. No matter how convenient social media or computer-based software may be, we cannot forget the vitality of quality time together. 

Mindfulness and Nature 

Many therapeutic modalities teach mindfulness as a way to restore positivity, regulate emotions, and increase mental wellness. There are so many ways to be mindful and the benefits are endless. The key feature of acquiring mindfulness is to get back to the basics of life. To bring your thoughts to each of your senses as with grounding exercises. Or another is to focus on one deep breath. When we find time in our busy schedules to open a window, take a walk outside, enjoy this beautiful Florida weather we become open to appreciating each moment. 

In 2018, media and technology are pretty much mainstream and here to stay. Realistically, we will probably not all of a sudden throw away all of our electronics, quit our jobs, and relocate our families to live in nature in peace and solitude. In fact, we have so many things to be grateful for with the advancement of media and technology. Adaptive technology have allowed individuals with disabilities access to greater independence. Social media has in fact brought families together and keeps us connected across distances. Technology allows platforms of information to be shared and accessible to anyone at anytime. Our advancements are truly incredible. 

However, as with most things, balance and self-awareness are key. So if any of the above applies to you or your family, what is one simple thing you can agree to do differently today?