Girl Museum exists completely online. We are made up of real people, doing real work, but our output is mainly online. However, the internet is not really the best place for girls, and we know that. While it does provide platforms for socialization, for activism and for education for millions that may not otherwise have access, we need to also consider the pitfalls as we walk towards being consumer by the digital world. I was struck by an article from NPR about digital detoxification centers, like the National Center for Youth Internet Addiction Treatment, in South Korea as a portent for the future. While we can wait around for endless studies, we could just look around and see the problem.
Kids with their faces in their phones are EVERYWHERE. Adults as well. We are terrible role models in this sphere. And going into treatment essentially means giving up their devices and finding something else to do and real people to talk with, which can be terrifying. Some of the girls interviewed described their deep attachment to their phones, one 16-year-old saying “I’ve had my phone since my first year in elementary school. I’ve never been without it since.” Others that they spend so many hours a day on them that they are afraid of what else to do. However, it only takes a few days for them to start to break these habits. But they need support.
Internet addiction is real, but it is not yet recognized as a disorder. We all know people in our lives, we may be those people who cannot walk away from their laptop, who cannot go to out of the house without their phones. And when they do, they cannot look up from them. As a parent, I am acutely aware of the dangers of screen time. And my hypocrisy as I spend most of my work day online. Girls can lose themselves in so many ways to the virtual world. It is so important that we make real world connections, make actual things we can hold, and get outside without our phones and go for a walk.
Ashley E. Remer
Girl News International