Digital Dependence & the Screentime Debate

A recent post in Wired by Robbie Gonzalez examined some of the narrative around screentime and addiction. The piece, titled “We’ve got the screen time debate all wrong. Let’s fix it” looks at some of the conjecture around digital dependence. Gonzalez traces the history from “Internet addiction disorder” to the growing concerns about screens and digital dependence.

This narrative around technology usage and screentime has been driven more by fear than facts. For right or wrong, recently the big tech companies have seen which way the wind is blowing and responded to issues of digital dependence. Hopefully that’s finally starting to change.

Experts suggest that we’ll never get good answers about the effects of screen time, unless we start asking better questions. That means being honest with ourselves about what we mean by “screentime” in the first place.

I still have issues with the use of the term “addiction” in these contexts, but I’m still thinking through the theory and research. I’m not sure how a focus on “digital dependence” changes the discussion.

If you’d like to think more about digital dependence, please watch the video below from Big Think. Adam Alter suggests that the devices and screens themselves are not addictive, it’s that they’re very good delivery vehicles for addictive content.

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About the author

Ian O'Byrne

Dr. W. Ian O’Byrne is a educator, researcher, & speaker. His work centers on teaching, learning, and technology. He investigates the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online & hybrid spaces.

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