Are You a #Screen #Addict?

G-Chat. Facebook. YouTube. TV. Gaming. Is all that screen time taking over your life?

FRANCIS HAMMOND/GETTY IMAGES

Imagine this: You wake up one beautiful, sunny morning and your cell phone is broken.

You can’t text. You can’t make a call. Horror of horrors, your phone is TOTALLY busted.

Do you:

  1. Demand that your little sister give you her phone until you get a replacement?

  2. Break out in hives worrying about all the texts you’re missing?

  3. Bawl your eyes out, because it’s like you’ve lost your right arm?

  4. Feel so lonely that you start trying to text with your pillow?

If you answered yes to any (or all) of these options, there’s a good chance that technology is taking over your life.

The average teenager spends a little more than 54 hours a week in front of a screen—nearly 8 hours every day. That’s more time than you spend in school—maybe even more time than you sleep.

Devouring Data

Teenagers today consume monumental amounts of information. It’s now a normal part of life. You chat and share photos on Facebook. You play games and send texts on your cell phone. You stream movies and listen to music on your computer and iPod. Maybe you also have an Xbox or a PS3.

And don’t forget your TV. If you happen to miss an episode of Family Guy because you’re mesmerized by crazy stunt videos on YouTube, no problem. You can catch it later on Hulu.

The things technology enables you to do—stay busy, be informed, connect with friends—these are good things.

Right?

Hundreds of researchers at top universities in the United States are hard at work trying to answer that question. Some are even devoting their careers to studying what all this means.

One of the biggest questions they are asking is, when does spending hours and hours watching TV or playing Modern Warfare 3 stop being fun and normal—and become dangerous?

And what does the answer mean to you?

Studies show that screen time does have its advantages. It can make you a good multitasker. Certain types of video games can build your reflexes and even improve your vision.

Feeling Down

But there is a dark side. Studies also show that teens who spend excessive time—16 hours or more a day—in front of a screen are more likely to get poor grades. They are also more likely to feel depressed and become obese.

Part of the problem is that people tend to let devices take too much of their time. Some kids can’t seem to turn them off, even when they have other things to do.

Does that describe you?

Consider this: Does it take you three hours to do three math problems because you are video chatting, playing Angry Birds, and downloading new Drake songs at the same time?

How about your chores? Did you forget to feed the dog because you had to watch one more rerun of The Big Bang Theory?

And what about the people you care about?

Technology allows you to stay in constant touch with friends and family. On the other hand, you might be missing out on relationships in your own home. Maybe your parents are always begging you not to use your cell phone during dinner. Or perhaps you’ve stopped shooting hoops with your little brother because you’re spending every waking minute playing NBA 2K12.

Instead of enhancing your life, technology might be getting in the way. Here’s one way to prove that YOU are in charge of your technology: The next time your phone buzzes, turn it off.

Then go for a nice stroll in the sunshine.

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