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26 May 2016

Study Shows Shocking Consequences Of Childhood ‘Screen Time’

"Some kids’ behaviors may lead parents to look to doctors for answers, which could result in a mental health diagnosis of ADHD, bipolar disorder, or major depression. But when treatments like therapy or medication aren’t working, we must try to rule out and focus on other factors, such as the daily use of electronics."

New Study Shows Shocking Consequences Of Childhood ‘Screen Time’
by Virginia Alaniz, thoughtfulwomen.org, 
11 November 2015

Do you have a chronically irritated child? If your child or teen spends a lot of time on interactive devices such as iPads, tablets, or cell phones and seems to be angry, depressed, and unmotivated a lot of the time, the devices may be to blame.

According to Dr. Victoria Dunckley in her article titled “Screentime Is Making Kids Moody, Crazy, and Lazy,” abnormally high arousal caused by use of interactive screen time is creating kids and teens who seem “revved up” and prone to rages and/or to being depressed and unmotivated.

Dr. Dunckley states that children who get abnormally high amounts of arousal may seem “wired and tired” because they’re agitated but exhausted. This may also be impacting kids academically and socially by affecting their memory and their ability to relate to others.

Some of these kids’ behaviors may lead parents to look to doctors for answers, which could result in a mental health diagnosis of ADHD, bipolar disorder, or major depression. But when treatments like therapy or medication aren’t working, we must try to rule out and focus on other factors, such as the daily use of electronics.

Dr. Dunckley has successfully treated children with mood dysregulation by putting them on an “electronics fast” in order for their nervous system to “reset.” This has produced great results, including deeper sleep, improved focus and organization, more consistent and positive moods, and an increase in physical activity.

As the child’s ability to handle stress improves, parents see less meltdowns, and the ones that do happen are not as intense. The kids are also more drawn to nature and experience an increase in imaginary and creative play. In teens and young adults, Dr. Dunckley has observed an increase in self-direction, and less hopelessness and apathy.

Although many parents believe that texting, emailing, gaming, and social media use are less harmful than passive screen time like watching TV, it’s actually more likely to cause cognitive, mood, and sleep issues due to compulsive use and hyper-arousal.

Dr. Dunckley lists 6 reasons for mood disturbances caused by the use of electronics.

1. Sleep Disturbance – Sleep problems occur when lights from screens suppress melatonin, the brain’s sleep signal. Once sleep is disrupted, other reactions can follow, such as hormone imbalance and brain inflammation.

2. Desensitized Reward System – Gaming releases so much dopamine that in a brain scan it mimics cocaine use. Overuse of reward pathways causes them to lose sensitivity.

3. Light-at-Night – A study performed on animals showed that even when the animal wasn’t looking directly into a screen, exposure to the screen-based light before or during sleep caused depression.

4. Stress Reactions – Irritability is increased when changes in brain chemistry and hormones, like cortisol, are produced by acute and chronic stress.

5. Sensory System Overload – High visual and cognitive input depletes mental energy, leaving low reserves, which causes focus to suffer. Anger gives a quick boost to depleted reserves, which is why children learn to cope with difficult situations by throwing tantrums.

6. Reduced Activity Levels and Green Time – Time spent on electronics reduces exposure to nature and time spent outdoors, activities which are important due to their ability to naturally lower stress, reduce aggression, and restore attention.

Dr. Dunckley has written a book, “Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen Time,” to help parents moderate their children’s use of electronics in order to become calmer, stronger, and happier.

Virginia Alaniz
Virginia is a wife and mom of four children. Besides writing for Thoughtful Women, she keeps busy learning about anything and everything. Her dream is to own a small ranch property where she can raise animals and grow her own organic food.

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