Screen time

Screen time


Sunday, May 19, 2019

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Go closely in with me:

Much danger do I undergo for thee.

— Shakespeare, King Lear, IV, 1

Danger comes in many forms. But who would have thought that a simple device, originally developed to impart knowledge, pleasure and recreation, could prove to be such a damnation on mankind?

I'm not talking about guns, knives, bombs or bullets, but that simple ubiquitous device known as the cellphone. Oops! Pardon me, the smartphone. Who would have thought that instrument would prove to be the bane of human existence and wreak havoc on humanity?

Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war, reap havoc and let loose that instrument to rob humanity of its soul. What was meant to give people times of pleasure has now robbed them of their time for anything else.

So much time is now spent gazing at the screens of those little instruments, the smartphone, the iPad, that recently a documentary was produced that highlighted the dangers of too much screen time.

That was actually the title of the USA television feature, Screen Time, and that's what I'll take time to explore today, right after these grave responses to 'Dead lef'.

Greetings Teerob,

Dead lef issues are perennially cold-blooded manipulations among expected beneficiaries, often being played out even before benefactors die. The story of Esau and Jacob from the Bible comes to mind. As a young boy I sometimes heard adults talking about others who were engaged in open antagonism towards relatives over dead lef. Oftentimes they mentioned 'leggisy'. It was only later that I learned that they were actually talking about somebody's legacy.


Hi Tony,

They say that you can't take it with you when you pass away. But even if you could, there are some of your close associates who would find some way to rob you of your earthly possessions and deny you taking it with you. Maybe you could devise some method to send it on ahead of you, but I jest. This dead lef syndrome is a sad, sick, sorry, serious situation among families and only brings out the greedy, selfish characteristics of so-called loved ones. I have seen the vultures circling the newly departed with drooling ambitions. They are the same as grave robbers.


So, back to this documentary that I mentioned earlier, titled Screen Time, that examined the time that people actually spent on their smartphones and similar devices. The results were alarming and showed that Americans spent almost 50 days in total out of every year with their heads buried in their smart devices. That's 10 days short of two months out of every year gazing at the little screens.

I'm sure that figure applies to Jamaicans too. If not, it's pretty close, for you know how we latch on to trends and fads. All this screen time impacts severely on our social interaction, or lack of it, and surely has a deleterious effect on our very existence as a society.

The impact on our children can be devastating, as the documentary showed. An experiment was done where mothers were instructed to spend just two minutes glued to their smartphones and totally ignore their young children.

It was heart-rending to see those little children react as they were ignored by their moms. And this was just two minutes of screen time. Some cried, whimpered, sulked, begged their moms to put down the phone and talk to them. Others simply sat dejectedly in a corner, resigned to their fate of being cast aside for something else.

It was amazing to see their reactions when the two minutes were up and their moms finally looked at them and assumed the mommy role once again. “Mommy, you came back to me, you love me again.”

But it's not only children who are affected by screen time. Teenagers and adults also fall into the snare, the web, the magnetic pull of the smart device. How often we go out and witness groups of people dining, yet everyone's head is buried in their smartphones. No one speaks, no one looks up, no one is even aware that others are around. Oblivion is their state.

They chat away on the phone, Google, WhatsApp, Instagram, play video games and do everything else but speak to each other. The human anatomy has taken on a new dimension, as the neck is now permanently bent in the downward position very much like that of a swan.

This could very well be our swan song, our death knell, the destruction of society as we know it, as people exist all alone, even while in a crowd. Couples go out to dinner and barely utter two words to each other because they're so preoccupied with their smartphones. Nobody speaks, except to that omnipresent glowing screen with the seductive blue light.

That light can be such a nuisance in movie theatres, plays, and even at church where weddings and funerals take place, as those people spend more time gazing at the screen than their surroundings.

I'm pretty sure that some wedding vows may soon be interrupted by screen time.

“Do you take this man to be your lawful wedded husband?”

“Hold on pastor, let me Google that first, after I respond to this WhatsApp.”

Screen time can lead to the death of some people who aren't as smart as their smartphones. Many have left this earth with the last thing on their mind being what's on the smartphone as they walk into traffic, oblivious to the dangers of oncoming vehicles. “Let me Google hit and run.”

Many foolish souls have lost their lives while taking selfies and falling off cliffs, buildings, or got too close to animals at zoos or on safaris. This happens a lot overseas, but you know how we are already, we'll soon follow suit.

I've seen news clips of people walking with their heads bowed, eyes glued to their screens and falling into open manholes or into gullies. It's laughable. But it's no laughing matter when people spend screen time while driving, when they should be spending time focused on the road.

Just recently, famous retired English football star David Beckham was suspended from driving for six months because of driving while on his phone. Alarmingly, death and injuries from texting and driving, or being on the phone and driving, have surpassed deaths caused by drinking and driving in the USA. No longer is it DUI, driving under the influence, instead it's driving on phone, or DOPE.

People simply cannot put down their devices for even a minute of conversation or any other social interaction. If your partner spends more time on the smartphone than on you, then you're in trouble.

If you're making love to your spouse and he or she stops to answer the phone, Google or WhatsApp, then get a new partner. Time is precious, time is special and comes around only once. Are you going to spend most of it on your phone?

As for the children, all may be lost for them as the smartphone device is their life. Serious punishment for a child is to take away the instrument, not the books or food, but the smartphone. It's an addiction and will soon be classed as such in medical journals, if not done so already. “I'm sorry, Mrs Brown, but your child is suffering from SPA — Smart Phone Addiction. There is no cure.”

Parents, wean your children off those devices. Introduce them to other activities where they can do other things with their time and not spend so much screen time. But, who am I fooling? That horse has bolted through the gate a long time ago. But because of your own screen time, you might not have noticed.

As a society, we have sunk to a new low because of these smartphones. If, heaven forbid, you meet in an accident, do not expect any assistance from gawkers before pictures are taken of your unfortunate situation. It's then posted on social media before you even get to the hospital. Screen time has made us cold, callous and indifferent.

Screen time has taken up the time of so many people and it's a sad situation.

More time.

Footnote: Speaking of society, here I go again, bawling, complaining, cussing about those infernal taxi drivers on our streets. I know I'm flogging a dead horse but I still have to vent my frustration. They are like homegrown terrorists who maim and kill all in their path. Schoolchildren are not spared, as these drivers continue their carnage on our roads. Just last week, one drove off a bridge into a river, injuring 11 children. Everyone talks and writes about them, me included, but nothing is being done, as their crude, callous behaviour gets worse every day. They are a law unto themselves and have no regard for God or man, as they wreak havoc with impunity. Some of them are like cockroaches, vermin in our midst who do not belong among civilised people.

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