For a long time students across Minnesota have needed help with screen addiction. But no one had the courage to publicly address it, until now.
As a senior at Henry Sibley High School, I have great concern about the negative effects of technology on my well-being. But with a proposal moving through the Minnesota Legislature (HF 1836/SF 1012), I feel hopeful about my future and that of my peers. The digital well-being bill is a major step toward showing us how to responsibly use technology with intention and balance.
We adapt our lives around our screen use rather than adapting our screen use to our lives.
Young people need guidance to learn digital well-being so we can use our devices in a balanced way, utilizing the best of what they can offer and managing the worst with greater awareness.
Digital distress is a major crisis among young people. Anxiety, depression and suicide have skyrocketed among teens since the development of the smartphone and no one has taken responsibility to ensure we can handle the digital world and the persuasive design of screens.
Distance learning has only made this challenge more difficult, and the return to live classrooms will not solve this pervasive problem as many hope.
Technology has always provoked a profound fascination for me with its potential to solve problems and create conveniences that are captivating. But there's a point at which, like many things, too much becomes harmful. I'm willing to recognize this but have often been unwilling to change many of my behaviors. To change my use of technology would be like changing my diet. I may choose to make small healthier choices but many of my habits remain the same.
That is not to say the situation is hopeless, but change is not accomplished overnight.
Solutions to address abuse of screens are similar to that of dieting in two ways: being informed on the issue helps, and no single process works for everyone. Many kids born around the establishment of personalized screens are now grown up enough to see the effects on their lifestyle. But despite the negative effects, many of us cannot overcome the ingrained and addictive behaviors on our own.
A couple of years ago, I discovered LiveMore ScreenLess, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the digital well-being of young people. I became one of their youth council leaders and now have the opportunity to mentor my peers on how to use digital devices responsibly and with intention.
I think it's important to practice methods of prevention at a younger age before habits have a chance to form. Teenagers will fight tooth and nail to defend what they think is right and will readily refute or discredit any opposing views. But with early education, healthy screen use can be easily taught and learned. LiveMore's peer education program is building a way for us to be leaders and mentors.
The digital well-being bill will raise awareness, provide multiple resources and training to schools and parents, and provide a mentoring program by students for students statewide. There's no one more qualified to pass on the wisdom than those of us who have experienced digital distress firsthand.
Miles Hill lives in West St. Paul.