Electronics have become a regular aspect in all of our daily lives. We wake up, check our phone for emails as we're brushing our teeth, watch a little news as we're eating our breakfast, and most likely stare at a computer screen for the majority of our workday. With kids these days, it's really no different. How many kids have you seen out in public playing games on their mom's cellphone or watching a show on an iPad? Even their education incorporates screens these days. And while these electronics can be a great tool for getting your child to be quiet and behave in public, the technology trend doesn't come without side effects.
Kids have always been difficult. But these days, there seems to be more and more chronically irritable children. Kids are in a constant state of arousal yet also have a high tendency to be exhausted, which only causes them to be more contentious. And while these symptoms may lead to diagnoses of mental health disorders such as ADHD, there may be a simpler underlying problem that is plaguing many of our children.
Before prescribing misbehaving children medication to make them calm down, Dr. Dunckley recommends having children go on an electronics fast in order to "reset" their nervous system. This break from electronics can include benefits such as increased patience, deeper sleep, a more stable mood, and better focus. It can cause the children to begin enjoying activities that they may have abandoned in favor of technology, such as time in nature, playing with friends, or reading.
But why does this break from screens have such a powerful impact on children? Many people don't realize that kids' brains are actually much more susceptible to damage from technology. Because young children still have very malleable and developing brains, too much time interacting with screens can dramatically impact their cognitive abilities. And, contrary to the popular belief that educational screen games are beneficial to development, interactive screen time may actually cause more damage to children, as it is more likely to cause hyperarousal and compulsive usage.
Many side effects of screen time are leading to behavior issues in children. A huge impact is on sleep: light on screens mimics the idea of 'daytime' in our brains, causing our sleep schedule to be disrupted. It has even been proven that simply a few minutes on a screen before bedtime can delay melatonin release by several hours. So screens may cause us all, but especially developing children, to not get enough deep, restorative sleep. And I'm sure we can all agree that sleepy kids are temperamental kids.
Another dangerous side effect of screens is that it messes with children's dopamine receptors, which can lead to a lack of motivation or focus. Studies have even shown that the amount of dopamine released during video games is comparable to cocaine usage. This can have tremendously unhealthy impacts on children's attention span and also their reward centers. In addition to dopamine issues and lack of sleep, too much screen time can overload the sensory system, cause an extreme lack of attention, and deplete energy and mental reserves. All of this combined can cause children to be fidgety, angry, depressed, stressed, lethargic, and irritable.
So what does all of this mean? Should you ban your children from ever using electronics? Not necessarily. But it might be time to think critically about screen time's longterm impacts on your child and how you can ensure that time is not causing current or future problems for them. Set limits on how much time your kids can be in front of a screen, whether educational or not. Get your kids outside, take hikes with them, play board games, and switch out family movie night for family outing night. Not only will you be building more and more memories with your children, but you may be making them less temperamental as well - sounds like a win-win to us!
SHARE this article with your friends so they can learn about the impacts of screen time on their children!