Dr Norman Swan is one of our leading health communicators and a much-respected broadcaster. In his new book So You Think You Know What’s Good for You? Norman replaces medical myths, half-truths, and misconceptions with the information you need to make better decisions about how to eat, sleep and how to live. This informative and entertaining new read is for everyone – be it grandparents, parents or millennials as it demystifies how to achieve good health and wellness in the modern age.
If you had opened a health book a generation ago, there would not have been a chapter on screens. However, things have changed and we now find ourselves in the age of technology, and a time where screens permeate every facet of our lives.
We used to talk about the risks of being a ‘couch potato’. Now it’s the fear of being a screen ‘addict’. At this moment, the science on the effects of screen use is not very advanced, but it is important to be aware of the potential effects on ourselves and our families.
Content matters. It is worth spending some time searching for the most suitable content for your child. Content should be from reputable sources, which encourage children to problem solve. Interestingly, almost half the apps on offer are designed for children between 0 and 12, three-quarters of them are full of instructions that are isolating and prescriptive, rather than allowing scope for open-ended play and interaction with other children. Australian guidelines recommend a limit of one hour of screen time per day for children aged two and over and the science is pointing to the fact this is important for the health and wellbeing of our children.
Teens and tech
Have you ever tried to remove your teen’s smartphone? (Mind you, have you ever tried to remove your own??) Do you have trouble keeping up with the differences between Tik Tok, Snap Chat and Instagram? We know that teenagers increasingly use the net for basic communication, education, and entertainment and socialising. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2018, 90 per cent of teens aged 13–17 have used social media. Seventy-five per cent report having at least one active social media profile, and about half report visiting a social media site at least daily. Two-thirds of teens have their own mobile devices with internet capabilities. On average, teens are online almost nine hours a day, not including time for homework. While this is a worrying statistic, we can also acknowledge that adolescence is a tough time, and thus recognise that the internet allows them anonymity and can also contribute to a sense of community, so it is not all bad.
Are you addicted?
How many times an hour do you check your phone? We can, at times, use our phones as a crutch, a solution to our loneliness, our boredom. For many, the need to check your phone has become more like a compulsion, rather than a genuine need to be updated. If this is a problem for you, you might feel preoccupied when you’re away from your phone, feel like you’re lacking control and unable to control your moods. If you identify with those feelings, you need to address your addiction.
So you think you know about mental health? Take our quiz to find out.