Screen time addiction is a real thing. According to Kathryn Lorenz, MD, of Upper Valley Family Medicine, part of the Premier Physician Network, watching TV for too long can eventually become like a drug for the human brain. The same applies to video games and scrolling through social media platforms online.
Too much screen time
The more time we spend staring at a screen, the more dopamine our brain releases. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter and hormone, plays many important roles in the human body, especially the brain. Too much of it can negatively affect impulse control.
Some studies have shown that too much screen time, which results in dopamine release, affects the frontal cortex like cocaine does. The frontal cortex, as the name suggests, is in the front part of the brain. It controls executive functions such as initiation, attention, emotion, planning, and impulse control.
Children’s Phone Usage and Screen Time Addiction Risk
With children having smartphones as young as ten and growing up with screens as the norm, it is no surprise that screen time addiction is an increasing worry for many parents. It’s not just the short-term effects, either, which could make your life as a parent very difficult, but also the long-term consequences, which may include speech delay, cognitive impairment, and difficulty with problem-solving and creative thinking.
There is also the problem of exposure to online predators and cyberbullies. Children who spend too much time on their smartphones, tablets, laptops, or watching TV tend to be much less physically active than other kids. A sedentary lifestyle can eventually lead to overweight, obesity, and poor bone health. Later in life, the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and other undesirable health conditions increases faster than it should.
Some children who spend too much time in front of a screen display signs of anxiety, and even depression.
Bill Gates revealed that he often limits how much screen time his youngest child gets before bed. None of his kids was given a cell phone until they reached their teens.
Mr. Gates explained:
“We don’t have cell phones at the table when we are having a meal; we didn’t give our kids cell phones until they were 14, and they complained other kids got them earlier.”
The man behind the iPhone and the iPad was strict with his kids too, and according to Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, dinnertime at the Jobs’ house was used as an opportunity to have real discussions with his children.
Mr. Isaacson said:
“Every evening, Steve made a point of having dinner at the big, long table in their kitchen, discussing books, history, and a variety of other thing. No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian revealed to CNBC that he and his wife, Serena Williams, planned to limit their daughter’s screen time:
“My wife and I both want her to be bored. My wife and I both want her to know what it’s like to have limits on tech…I do look forward to playing video games with her when she’s older, but it’s really important that she gets time to just be with her thoughts and be with her blocks and be with her toys, so we’ll be regulating it pretty heavily.”
And finally, the man who created Facebook once said that the solution to the broken school system was introducing more technology. He added that social media platforms brought people together and wanted the whole world to use services like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Did you know that he has a different attitude when it comes to his home life and parenting?
Before they get hooked to a device with a screen, Zuckerberg wants his daughters Maxima and August to “read Dr. Seuss and play outside” rather than use Facebook Messenger Kids.
Mr. Zuckerberg said:
“I don’t generally want my kids to be sitting in front of a TV or a computer for a long period of time.” However, Zuckerberg does allow his daughters to use Facebook’s video chat product, Portal. “I let my kids use that to communicate with my parents, so they can stay in touch with their grandparents easily, [and] their aunts who live across the country,” Zuckerberg said.
However, says Zuckerberg, passively consuming content, or “going from video to video” isn’t associated with the same positive effects.
Apps for parents
The tech gurus know the effects too much screen time have on children. They have also created apps for parents to monitor how much time their children spend on their phones. Many of the apps also allow parents to monitor their children’s online activities, i.e., which websites they go to and how long they spend there.
Family Orbit is an all-around monitoring app for your child’s phone, which allows you to locate the entire family any time you like as well as keeping a close eye on their messages, calls, and internet browsing history. As well as this, though, it lets you limit the amount of time your child has on their phone without having to physically get it off them. With Family Orbit, you can Lock your child’s phone from wherever you are and schedule daily usage and time limits to make sure they’re not using their phone when they should be asleep or concentrating in class.
Interesting related article: “What is Addiction?“