Technology plays a significant role in all aspects of our lives. There are a lot of benefits in using technology, however children are introduced and exposed to screens (TVs, iPads, computers, smartphones…etc.) earlier and for longer periods of time than in past decades. Parents should be aware of the negative effects of early and prolonged screen exposure.
The following is a summary of some of the latest research findings about screen exposure:
- Long exposure to screens impedes the development of executive functions,overloads the sensory system, and depletes mental reserves.
- Long exposure negatively affects abilities to focus, to concentrate, and to pay attention.
- When young children use devices, visuals and information are intense and fast. The brain at that age is not able to process information normally. This leads to the cognitive muscle not developing and becoming weak. In addition, children get accustomed to the fast pace, so information from the environment then becomes uninteresting and boring.
- A child’s sensitive nervous system can become overstimulated from even moderate but regular screen time. This causes the brainto be in a state of chronic stress, creating symptoms that mimic or exacerbate mental health, learning, and behavioral This is referred to as Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS).
- Children who are exposed to screens too early and/or too long are more likely to struggle in school.
- With every screen tap or swipe that brings an instant response of colors, shapes, or sounds, dopamine is released. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. The patterns that it creates mimics in a less intense manner, the dangerous cycle of drug and alcohol addiction. This is the reason why children who are exposed to screens start to show unusual behaviors when they stop. They are relatively in a state of withdrawals. Some of the behaviors that may be observed are irritability, disorganization, lack of focus and concentration, and even depression symptoms.
- During adolescence, the frontal lobe continues to develop more actively, and this is an area that controls impulse, empathy, planning, and reasoning abilities. Basically, all the things we need to succeed in life! Long exposure to screen impedes the healthy development of the frontal lobe and crucial skills in that area of the brain.
What can parents do?
- Read about the effects of early and long screen exposure. Dr. Dunckley, a screen-time expert, provides a lot of information, research findings, and advice regarding this topic.
- Become familiar with symptoms of Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS) and assess if your child is showing symptoms at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201711/is-your-child-overstimulated-too-much-screen-time
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen exposure for children under 18 months. Between 18 and 24 months, parents should choose only high-quality programming and watch with their children to help them understand what they are seeing. Children between 2 and 5 years old should only be exposed to no more than one (1) hour per day of high-quality programs. For 6 years and older, parents should limit quality and quantity of screen exposure as well as teach online safety.
- Seek help and guidance if you feel you need support with children and who are already showing symptoms of ESS.