When going outside, take a look at what’s going on with the kids – almost all off them have their eyes stuck to a tablet or smartphone screen. The technological advancement in the last few decades sure has its advantages, with tablets and smartphones becoming a real parent’s dream which allows their child to be still for a time. However, it isn’t without a drawback – the so-called “screen time” can cause behavioral and mental problems which may even have a fatal outcome later in your child’s life.
What is screen dependency disorder?
No matter if they’re browsing through YouTube or playing video games, kids nowadays love spending their time on a tablet or smartphone, and parents are allowing it. This incredibly addictive behavior and extensive exposure to screens can significantly harm the developing brain and cause numerous other problems. The so-called screen dependency disorder is also known as online game addiction, problematic internet use, internet addiction disorder, mobile phone dependence, social network site addiction, Facebook addiction or compulsive internet use, and it is real.
Dr. Alec Sigman recently wrote an article in which he says that the addiction describes a growing number of children engaging in a variety of screen activities that can be seen as problematic. If you’re wondering if your kid has become screen dependent, here are the 8 signs you should pay attention to:
- Loss of interest when outside;
- Lying about the extent of use of smartphone or tablets;
- Using screens as a way of escaping reality and moods;
- Failure to stop using a smartphone or tablet when being told so;
- Increasing tolerance;
- Withdrawal symptoms;
- Continuation of use even despite the negative consequences;
How prevalent is screen dependency in kids?
Very. According to a 2015 study, about 12% of young American gamers are pathological video gamers. Some scientists are even warning that this kind of gaming can lead to addiction-like symptoms not unlike in drug addicts.
Dr. George Lynn, a Seattle-based psychologist, says that 80% of his patients are children with issues caused by too much gaming or spending too much time in front of the PC, laptop or tablet. Social media is a big problem as well, and has been related to behavioral problems. As Dr. Lynn puts it, the constant and excessive use of recreational screes are causing a personality syndrome. “Most doctors miss the fact that these kids spend only 2-3 hours of sleeping overnight, which causes serious problems,” he says.
What is screen dependency really doing to our children?
The screen dependency disorder can have detrimental effects on your child’s health. Scientists have related it to loneliness, vision problems, headaches and migraines, anxiety, back pain, weight gain and insomnia. The long-term effects are even worse, and may even come in the form of brain damage.
Several studies have found a link between spending too much time in front of recreational screens. Scientists have found out that the brain tissue may actually shrink, and tissue loss in the striatum, insula and frontal lobe can also occur. All these areas are used to plan and organize and also control our empathy.
Dr. Claudette Avelino-Tandoc, we live in a digital age and our children are “digital natives”, but we should be cautious. “These devices are not bad per se, and we should teach our children to use them. However, balance is the key word here,” she says.
5 tips for parents who think their child is suffering from screen dependency disorder
Kids under the age of 18 months
Avoid allowing your children using screens other than for video chats. Whenever you decide to allow your children to use a screen, be there with them and limit their time.
Children aged 2-5
At this age, you need to limit the screen exposure to an hour per day. The media should be watched in your presence in order to help your child understand what it’s seeing.
Children aged 6+
Make sure to limit your child’s time spent on the screen and pay close attention to the type of media they’re watching.
Pre-set ground rules
No matter the age, you need to have ground rules set in place like media-free time when going for a drive, and media-free zones in your home like the bedroom.
Stay active in the conversation
Have ongoing and open conversation with your children about the online citizenship and safety. Teach them to treat others online with respect just like in real life.