Ask someone to go a month without their phone, and you’ll often see the terror in their eyes as they can’t imagine being able to navigate their lives without their digital friend. Although they haven’t been around for more than a few decades, smartphones are now considered a basic necessity for thousands of people around the globe. In a study conducted by Samsung, it is estimated that as much as 58 percent of the world’s population rely on smartphones on a daily basis. From getting directions to and restaurant recommendations to answering emails and ordering a new shirt, smartphones seem to be able to do just about anything. This hasn’t meant good things for the rest of the ways we consume information.
With the rise of smartphones over the past few decades, most of us spend much of our time now on social media and the digital world. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, in 2016, the average teenager spent about six hours a day texting, on social media, or online during their free time. Over the past decade, social media has moved from a periodic activity to a daily one. The time teens spend on social media has doubled since 2006, which is a huge cause for concern.
Teens are, of course, still reading. However, they’re reading much shorter texts, such as Facebook articles and Instagram captions. These, however, are not long, fully-developed articles that provokes deep thought, critical thinking and self-reflection. This doesn’t bode well for the transition for college, either. Imagine reading two-sentence captions or thirty second articles for most of your high school career and then being expected to read 100 pages of an 800-page college textbook in one sitting!
Reading has so many benefits to all ages. Reading is great fun for many people, but it also has multiple benefits for your mental health, along with your critical thinking skills. By intently focusing on the words on the page and following the storyline, your brain takes in a significant amount of information. This type of stimulation is extremely healthy to your mind, as it sharpens the parts of your brain responsible for concentration and critical analysis.
Not only does reading help you sharpen your critical thinking skills, but it also helps improve overall brain function. Think about what happens when you continually work a muscle. That muscle eventually starts to grow and become stronger. Reading works the same way for your brain. The constant stimulation the brain experience while you read a book requires the brain to work in a way similar to how you work a muscle. This strengthens the separate parts of the brain that control your thinking and analyzing skills.
In the digital world we live in, smartphones are often our main form of communication with one another. But that doesn’t mean we need to be on them constantly. Setting a time limit, such as two to three hours of online time daily, is a good way to these bad habits. Reading books is the best way to become an informed consumer and learn how to think critically. So, pick up that book and start reading!
Lindsay Gibbons can be contacted