How Too Much Screen Time Affects Kids’ Bodies And Brains
Its no longer controversial to suggest that humans and their smartphones arent always a healthy combination. Strong research has been coming in over the last several years, suggesting that looking at screens for hours a day can have some serious health and mental health consequences. Even some of the developers of these products have admitted guilt about their creations, and confessed that they dont even let their kids use them. A couple of recent studies highlight the connection, and an infographic below expands on it.
One new study finds that time spent on screens is linked to not-so-great shifts in brain connectivity, while reading is linked to more beneficial changes. The researchers, from Cincinnati Childrens Hospital, had families rate how much time their kids spent on screens and how much time they spent reading actual books. The childrens brains were scanned, to assess how regions involved in language were connected, and it turned out that screen time was linked to poorer connectivity in areas that govern language and cognitive control. Reading, on the other hand, was linked to better connectivity in these regions.
It can be tricky to tease apart the effects of screens on mental and physical health, but researchers are doing remarkably well. Below are some more of the effects that too much screen time seems to have on the developing body and brain.
Screen time’s concerning effects on kids’ brains. Courtesy WhatIsDryEye.com
How Does Screen Time Affect A Childs Brain
If were going to accurately assess the impact of screen time on children, we cannot merely look at sociological factors like social skills, but also psychological and neurological factors. Both categories need to be considered. Thus, by way of introduction, screen time can affect children in the following ways:
- Behavioral issues
As a symptom of Electronic Screen Syndrome , children who use screens too much often struggle to regulate their mood and attention spans in appropriate contexts. For example, many smartphone games designed for children feature simple reward stimuli. When they score a point or perform a certain task in the game, a fun bell sounds, another character responds positively, or the game does something simple to indicate good performance. These moments essentially condition the child. Especially for younger children, they might learn that the world works in the same way. Therefore, when it doesnt, children can act out aggressively in ways not typically expected.
- Irregular sleep
Frequent use of screens exposes children to constant flashes, bright lights, and other stimuli that can disrupt normal sleeping patterns. For example, if you lived in a bright, sunny environment 24/7, your sleep would get wildly thrown off. Your brain depends on decreasing light to begin to tune down. When children use screens a lot, its like theyre always in a bright environment.
- Educational problems
Life Has No On/off Switch
Have you ever seen a mother chuckle as her baby tries to swipe a real photograph, or punch their fingers onto a poster or book as if it were a touchscreen? It may seem cute, but it points to something much deeper in the childs brainan internalization that all actions have an immediate effect, and all stimuli elicit a quick response.
This is true in the on-screen world, but not elsewhere. When every finger swipe brings about a response of colors and shapes and sounds, a childs brain responds gleefully with the neurotransmitter dopamine, the key component in our reward system that is associated with feelings of pleasure. Dopamine hits in the brain can feel almost addictive, and when a child gets too used to an immediate stimuli response, he may learn to prefer smartphone-style interactionthat is, immediate gratification and responseover a real-world connection.
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How Much Screen Time Is Too Much
Media and digital devices are an integral part of our lives and when screen time when used in moderation, it can have an educational and social benefit. However, because a childs brain is extremely sensitive to electronic stimulation, parents should impose limits on screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their guidelines on healthy screen time limits to include:
- Children younger than 18 months: Use of screen media other than video-chatting should be discouraged.
- Children 18 to 24 months of age: Parents should co-watch high-quality programming/apps. Children viewing media by themselves should be avoided.
- Children two – five years: Limit screen use to no more than 1 hour or less per day of high-quality programming. Co-viewing is preferred, so parents can reinforce new information your child may have just learned through a screen. Studies have indicated back-and-forth conversation enhances language skills more so than passive listening or one-way interaction with a screen.
- Children over six years: Establish consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media.
Kids And Screens: Effects Of Screen Time On Brain Development
How does screen time affect kids brains? This is a question that plagues most parents and brain science researchers.
Since 2013, the National Institutes of Health has been conducting the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study to better understand different aspects of adolescent cognitive, social, physical and emotional development. Researchers are working with more than 11,000 kids, ages 9 to 10, at 21 different sites across the country to track their development through young adulthood.
Kids, screen time, and the brain
The $300 million study began as a way to analyze the impact of substance use on adolescent brains. But the initial research has broadened to include what many think of as a new drug of choice: screens.
Any parent who has asked their kid to put down a device already realizes the potential addictiveness of social media and video games. One more second seems to be a constant refrain in my house, but it is never just one more second. Kids and screens are a real problem. And once screens get our kids attention, it can be nearly impossible for them to look away.
The concern many parents have about the impact of screen time on their kids brains has brought that aspect of the study to the forefront. Recently, NIH researchers presented initial findings from the brain scans of 4,500 participants and shared the results.
Moderate screen use lowers test scores
Excessive screen use alters the brain
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What Time Should A 14 Year Old Go To Bed
If you are asking yourself what time should a 14-year-old go to bed? then you probably have children of your own and even if you dont, you probably share a bed with siblings who are older. There are many factors that go into determining when a person should go to bed, but no matter what age bracket you are in, the important thing is that you sleep. Even if you are having difficulty getting to sleep at night or waking up during the middle of the night, it is still better than not sleeping at all. It can be hard enough to keep up your normal daily routine without adding the stress of wondering when you should go to bed, so you might as well take care of the problem before it gets worse.
When it comes to deciding when a person should go to bed, there are many factors at play. In order to get the most out of your nights sleep, it is important to set a routine. Whether this means going to bed at the same time each night or having your sleep schedule disrupted to fit the schedule of your favorite television show, it is important to be consistent. Set a bedtime routine like making sure you put on the same clothes every night, brush your teeth, and put on your makeup each night, and then get dressed for work the same way each day. You will find that it will help you drift off to sleep easier and longer, which is what you want to avoid.
Excessive Screen Use Alters The Brain
The initial data has also revealed another key finding: kids ages 9 to 10 who spend more than seven hours a day using smart devices or playing video games show a thinning of the outermost layer of the brain associated with processing sensory information. That thinning is a normal maturation process, as researcher Dr. Gaya Dowling describes, but researchers are seeing it earlier in kids who use devices often throughout the day.
Is the accelerated thinning of the cortex of the brain a bad thing? Is the thinning caused by screen time? At this point, the NIH researchers dont know what these changes mean. They will release more data early in 2019. It will take years, however, to understand the full outcomes of this research.
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Helps The Child Feel Loved
How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with themtalking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that theyre essentialthat they matter. What a gift to give your child!
If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.
Screen Time Is A Likely Cause Of The Ongoing Surge In Teen Depression Anxiety And Suicide
Some days, I can see how profoundly anti-social technology makes my family, adults and teens alike. We joke that our kids get screen stonedspacey and despondent, or irritable and aggressive. We may laugh, but it isnt that funny. I know what all that screen stimulation is doing to my teenagers brains, and its concerning.
I know Im not alone in worrying half of parents surveyed in 2018 said that they were concerned that their childs mobile device use is negatively affecting his or her mental health, and nearly half thought their child was addicted to the device.
Here is what we know: The spike in the amount of time teenagers spend on screens is a likely cause of the ongoing surge in depression, anxiety, and suicide that began shortly after smartphones and tablets became widespread among teenagers, around 2012. By analyzing multiple data setsall large-scale, long-term scientific studies, not one-off surveysdemographer and psychologist Jean Twenge has clearly shown that American teens who spend more time online are more likely to have at least one outcome related to suicide, like depression or making a suicide plan.
The numbers are enormous: Nearly half of teens who indicated that they spend five or more hours a day on a device said they had contemplated, planned, or attempted suicide at least oncecompared with 28 percent of those who have less than an hour of screen time a day.
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Media Literacy Activities For The Whole Family
In a world that is fast paced and media/technology-generated, it seems like it would be hard for parents to have the time to practice media literacy skills with their children, but the truth is raising a media-literate person is easier and simpler than we may think.
Listed below are some fun activities parents can adapt and use in their own homes with their children or teens. Parents who incorporate media literacy activities that fit best with their own family dynamic have seen their children become more equipped to think critically about visual images at any age and stage of their lives.
Is Screen Time Bad For Kids Brains
A study featured on 60 Minutes is sure to alarm parents. Heres what scientists know, and dont know, about the link between screens, behavior, and development.
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A generation ago, parents worried about the effects of TV before that, it was radio. Now, the concern is screen time, a catchall term for the amount of time that children, especially preteens and teenagers, spend interacting with TVs, computers, smartphones, digital pads, and video games. This age group draws particular attention because screen immersion rises sharply during adolescence, and because brain development accelerates then, too, as neural networks are pruned and consolidated in the transition to adulthood.
On Sunday evening, CBSs 60 Minutes reported on early results from the A.B.C.D. Study , a $300 million project financed by the National Institutes of Health. The study aims to reveal how brain development is affected by a range of experiences, including substance use, concussions, and screen time. As part of an exposé on screen time, 60 Minutes reported that heavy screen use was associated with lower scores on some aptitude tests, and to accelerated cortical thinning” a natural process in some children. But the data is preliminary, and its unclear whether the effects are lasting or even meaningful.
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Brain Scan Research Findings In Screen Addiction:
Gray matter atrophy: Multiple studies have shown atrophy in gray matter areas in internet/gaming addiction . Areas affected included the important frontal lobe, which governs executive functions, such as planning, planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control . Volume loss was also seen in the striatum, which is involved in reward pathways and the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses. A finding of particular concern was damage to an area known is the insula, which is involved in our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behavior, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships.
Compromised white matter integrity: Research has also demonstrated loss of integrity to the brains white matter . Spotty white matter translates into loss of communication within the brain, including connections to and from various lobes of the same hemisphere, links between the right and left hemispheres, and paths between higher and lower brain centers. White matter also connects networks from the brain to the body and vice versa. Interrupted connections may slow down signals, short-circuit them, or cause them to be erratic .
Activity #: Different Viewpoints
This activity incorporates the whole family. The family watches one program together. The TV is then turned off and each person writes a few sentences explaining their opinions about the show. Discuss and compare everyones thoughts, and point out to your child how different people will like or dislike the same program. Why are all perspectives valid? Who had the most persuasive view about the show and why?
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An Education In Action Games
You might not expect a 12-year-olds time playing Fortniteto improve their language skills. But a growing body of research suggests that action video games fast-paced shoot-em-ups might offer a variety of benefits for learning, such as improvements in depth perception, visual memory, spatial awareness and the ability to switch between tasks.
Action games are associated with improvements on a pretty broad range of perceptual and cognitive skills, says C. Shawn Green, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in cognitive neuroscience.
Not all video games or video game players, for that matter are created equal. But due to the importance of hand-eye coordination and lightning-fast reflexes in action games, they offer certain cognitive upgrades that other genres dont.
In 2007, a Psychological Science study showed that college students who were avid action game players were better than nonplayers at picking out targets, such as the orientation of the letter T, even when it was flanked by distracting objects, like an upside-down T. In the same study, when players unfamiliar with action games spent a total of 30 hours playing the shooting game Unreal Tournament, those skills received similar boosts. That time spent gaming may have improved certain visual abilities for the action-game newbies.
Toddlers Screens And Reality
Maybe theyre watching the latest episode of Peppa Pig on the family iPad. Or shrieking with delight at the grinning face of Dad, Skyping from a conference halfway around the world. For infants and toddlers, screens can be just as attention-grabbing if not more so as they are for the rest of us. But some recent research suggests that the little ones might not be taking away much information from those experiences.
In general, under the age of 3, its relatively difficult for children to learn from video or from another kind of screen than it is to learn from another person, says Vanderbilt University psychologist Georgene Troseth.
The bulk of research shows that, unlike older children, infants and toddlers are less likely to learn from a screen than from a dynamic, face-to-face interaction a phenomenon known as video deficit. As early as the 1980s, researchers discovered that children learn language skills better from shows such as Sesame Street if an adult is watching with them and reinforcing the material. A 2007 study, published in Media Psychology, found that toddlers struggled to learn new words simply by watching television.
Some studies have suggested, though, that video chat in which parents interact with their child in real time is different. In a 2018 study, Troseth, who specializes in early childhood development, wanted to see if receiving social cues on a screen was enough for toddlers to learn new words.
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