A Burns Lake organization called child and youth mental health and substance use collaborative (CYMHS) has been speaking to youth and the general public about the consequences of consistently checking their phones.
Approximately 60 Grade 8 students in Burns Lake watched the documentary ‘Screenagers, growing up in the digital age’ by filmaker and Stanford trained physician Delaney Ruston. The general public was also invited to watch the documentary last night at the Beacon Theatre.
Nicole Rushton, CYMHS’s project lead, said this all started when CYMHS conducted a survey at Lakes District Secondary School asking students if they had been struggling with technology addiction. Out of the 119 surveys completed, 18 people admitted that they had been struggling with addiction to their phones or computers.
“We thought this number was quite large,” said Rushton. “A lot of people don’t admit to these things; since teenagers grew up with that [technology], it’s easy for them to deny it.”
“So we decided to do something about it.”
Rushton said their main goal was to help youth and parents understand that technology addiction is an addiction like any other.
“I don’t know if many people realize this, but there are actually rehab centres for Internet addiction,” said Rushton. “This is obviously a huge issue.”
“If children are spending too much time on their phone, they are losing their social skills, they are not spending as much time with their family or friends, [they are developing] poor sleeping habits, poor eating habits, and sometimes aggression is shown in their family when they are challenged about their device or asked to not use it as much.”
“It’s become quite an issue in many people’s households.”
Rushton said CYMHS also hoped to educate parents on how to help their kids without damaging their relationship.
One of the suggestions is for parents and their children to draw up a contract, setting up limits to phone usage such as not allowing children to use their phones at the dinner table, or not allowing them to use their phones past 10 p.m.
Rushton stressed the importance of involving children when drawing up these contracts, saying that what works for one child might not necessarily work for another.
“One of the kids in the video said she couldn’t get dressed in the morning without her phone. Her parents wanted to take her phone away in the morning, but they didn’t realize that she was talking to her girlfriends about what to wear.”
“She actually needed her phone to help decrease her stress in order to get ready for school. Obviously they wouldn’t want to take her phone away from her then.”
Rushton also suggested that parents sign their kids up for extracurricular activities. In addition, she said it’s important to monitor what kids are doing online.
“Sometimes it’s easier [for parents] to let things go and use the excuse of saying, “They grew up with it,” she said.
“Just because the kids grew up with it [technology], it shouldn’t be normalized,” she added. “We’re hoping this video will help people change that thought instead of making excuses for these children.”
Burns Lake’s child and youth mental health and substance use collaborative, a partnership of Doctors of B.C. and the Ministry of Health, has been operating in Burns Lake since March 2015. Their goal is to increase the number of children, youth and their families receiving timely access to mental health and substance use support in the Lakes District. Although their original plan was to operate in Burns Lake until March 2017, their contract has been extended until December 2017.
CYMHS is currently looking for more volunteer parents and youth to join their team. For more information, contact Nicole Rushton at 250-981-1401.