Thanks for visiting the BlackScreens website, I hope you find the information here useful. Let me tell you a bit about the BlackScreens program.
My name is Dr Sharon Horwood, and I’m a lecturer at Deakin University. My main areas of research are personality and health, with a specific focus on the health costs and benefits of human-computer interaction. In other words, how healthy is the technology we use?
And boy do we use technology! Australians are big users of mobile digital technology. As of 2017, around 88% of our population own a smartphone. That’s a big uptake, considering smartphones have only been around for about a decade. Digital technology is pretty popular among Australian teenagers too, about 94% have a smartphone.
There’s no doubt that smartphones, and screens in general, add a lot of good things to our lives. Most of us use our smartphones daily, and for a multitude of different functions. This image always makes me remember just how amazing modern smartphone technology really is….
Smartphone technology is used in all sorts or wonderful ways to improve people’s health and wellbeing. For example, smartphones can be used to improve fitness in people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes or to help people quit smoking.
They are becoming a useful tool for helping young people manage feelings of anxiety, as well as means of assisting middle aged and older adults manage severe mental illness.Smartphones are certainly not going to be the end of civilisation, but, like many things in life, we have to take the good with the bad when it comes to screen use. There is evidence that excessive smartphone use is associated with increased depression, poor sleep and productivity at work, decreased quality of parent-child relationships, and poorer academic performance.
There is a lot we don’t know about screen use and it’s effects on our health and wellbeing. There is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence, particularly about concerns that screens are making us (paradoxically) less social and more disconnected from the people we love. There is a mountain of anecdotal evidence that indicates parents are concerned about how to manage their kids’ access to screens, and whether screens are changing the way our kids grow up. The trouble with anecdotal evidence is that although it seems intuitive a lot of the time, it can be wrong and it’s not a good basis on which to make decisions that affect us all. This is where BlackScreens comes in. This project has two main aims: 1) improve our understanding of whether our love affair with smartphones is a healthy relationship, and 2) develop educational and practical self-help resources for young people, parents, and schools.
On a personal note….
I came to this area of research quite by accident. My research previously focused on understanding how personality influences aspects of chronic illness, but one day I noticed a pretty dramatic change in behaviour of a young person that I am close to. I noticed behaviours that unmistakably paralleled those of addiction – cravings, withdrawal, and tolerance. The thing that the young person was craving, was his smartphone. Very quickly, at age 11, he developed an attachment to his device that was quite frankly, both astonishing and frightening. In the months that followed I spent a lot of time trying to navigate the world of parental control software and found that it was incredibly complicated and quite confusing. I imagined a time poor or not hugely IT literate parent trying to make sense of the programs available, what they do, and importantly, what they don’t do. I hope to shed light on some of the mysteries of managing kids’ devices for parents (and even adults who want some help managing their own screen use) through these blog posts, and the resource we upload to the BlackScreens website.
Hopefully we can all start to learn to turn off screens from time to time, and turn on life.