Screen time, in its multiple forms, will be part of your children’s lives at some point. But parents must ask themselves how early and to what extent?
AN EDUCATIONAL EDGE?
Some parents think they’re giving their child an educational edge like Susan who bought her 6-year-old son John an iPad when he was in first grade. “She thought, ‘Why not let him get a jump on things?’ John’s school had begun using the devices with younger and younger grades – and his technology teacher had raved about their educational benefits.
Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, one of the country’s foremost addiction experts who counseled Susan and her son John, writes, “She started giving John screen time to play different educational games on his iPad. Soon, he discovered Minecraft, which a teacher assured was “just like electronic Lego.” She remembered how much fun she had as a child building Legos. At first, Susan was pleased. John seemed engaged in creative play. She did notice that the game wasn’t quite like the Legos she remembered – after all, she didn’t have to kill animals and find rare minerals to survive and get to the next level with her old game. But the school even had a Minecraft club, so how bad could it be?”
“John became more and more focused on his digital game, losing interest in baseball and reading while refusing to do his chores. As his behavior continued to deteriorate, Susan tried to take the game away but John threw temper tantrums. His outbursts were so severe that she gave in, still rationalizing to herself over and over again that “it’s educational.”
But it’s even worse than we think.
DOSE OF REALITY
There’s a line; cross it and parents may actually unintentionally be doing significantly more harm than good.
“Tablets are the ultimate shortcut tools: Unlike a mother reading a story to a child, for example, a smartphone-told story spoon-feeds images, words, and pictures all at once to a young reader. Rather than having to take the time to process a mother’s voice into words, visualize complete pictures and exert the mental effort to follow a story line, kids who follow stories on their smartphones get lazy. The device does the thinking for them, and as a result, their own cognitive muscles remain weak.” ~Liraz Margalit Ph.D. Digest the information below on screen time, even though it might feel uncomfortable, and arm yourself with the truth about the potential damage screen time is capable of imparting – particularly in a young, still-developing brain.
“There’s a reason Steve Jobs was a conscientiously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech Montessori or Waldorf schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.” (source)
SCREEN TIME, A DIGITAL DRUG
We now know that smartphones, iPads, and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex – which controls executive functioning, including impulse control – in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic – as much as sex.
Victoria L. Dunckley M.D says, Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain.
But what about kids who aren’t “addicted” per se? Let’s be clear!
Even in children with “regular” exposure, we should be aware that screen time is creating subtle damage considering the “average” child clocks in more than seven hours a day (Rideout 2010).
As a doctor, Dunckley observes that many of the children she sees suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyper-aroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what she calls electronic screen syndrome. These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention – much like the damage seen in these scans above. (source)
WEANING AND RETRAINING
Unfortunately, screen time has replaced the outdoor time and become a kind of babysitter. Children used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments,