Cutting screen time in your child’s life may be something you do regularly. However, if you are noticing your child is having a hard time getting away from their screens it may be time to take action. Research has found that excessive screen time is linked to anxiety, depression, ADHD, and obesity in children.
The Dangers of Excessive Screen Time
Nowadays, children are constantly interacting with screens, whether it’s texting with friends, watching YouTube videos, or playing online video games. It wasn’t long ago that the only screen in the home was the family television. Now we have tablets, smartphones, laptops, electronic games, and more. Researchers are attempting to keep pace with the exponential growth of technology, and preliminary reports indicate that too much screen time can lead to serious behavioral, physical and emotional issues.
According to a study conducted by Common Sense, U.S. teens spend an average of nine hours a day in front of a screen. Around two and a half hours are spent watching television by children under 8 years old, and about one third of children under 2 have a television set in their room. With so much time in front of screens, a number of new medical conditions have been identified related to screen time, including “Computer Vision Syndrome,” which causes eye strain, irritation, dryness, and blurred vision.
An alarming increase in childhood obesity can be attributed to excessive screen time. In the United States, a third of children are overweight or obese, which increases their risk of diabetes, hypertension, and low self-esteem. Using technology before bed has been linked to fewer hours of sleep, worse quality of sleep, and greater fatigue the following day. In response to the blue light from screens, the circadian rhythm (natural day/night cycle) can be disrupted by causing the body to produce less melatonin.
Mental Health Conditions
The mental and emotional health of our children is one of the most concerning effects of screen time. Overstimulation and hyper-arousal of the developing child’s brain by frequent screen time can short-circuit the frontal lobe. The term “Electronic Screen Syndrome” was coined by Victoria Dunckley to describe this disorder of dysregulation. These conditions can manifest themselves in children like irritability, anxiety, depression, tantrums, and impairments at school, at home, or with peers. In addition, some children may struggle with short-term memory loss.
The rising rate of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is often attributed to excessive screen time and inadequate outdoor time for children. As a child develops, the brain is wired to crave constant stimulation, and the child struggles when the stimulation is taken away. It is possible for technology use to become an addiction, a constant craving that takes precedence over negative outcomes. If the user does not use their screen, they become irritable, negatively impacting their health and their relationships with others.
The children of today have never known a time without screen use, and they watch adults constantly using screens, which normalizes the behavior. By setting good examples, parents, teachers, and caregivers alike can help children immensely. You don’t have to reach for your phone when you hear a text alert during meals and family time. Many of us would benefit immensely if we put our screens away and enjoy being present in the moment! As an alternative to watching television, you can do puzzles, play board or card games, read a book, draw, turn on some music, take a bubble bath, go for a walk, or perform some other non-electronic activity.
If you are looking for someone to talk to at Mountain Vista Psychology, we are here for you. Feel free to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 720-583-9332.
Dr. Steffanie Stecker a licensed psychologist and the owner and clinical director of Mountain Vista Psychology, PLLC.
In addition, she is a board certified neurotherapist (BCN E5669) and board certified in QEEG (QEEG-D). Less than 100 people world wide are board certified in QEEG, which indicates competency in reading QEEGs and choosing neurofeedback protocols. Dr. Stecker is passionate about brain based effective therapy and creating a safe relationship for her clients to create change. She loves what she gets to do each day!