As a result of the incredible technological advancement in the 21st century, now there is almost no household that doesn’t have a smartphone, tablet or both. Most of the parents use them as a solution for boredom or temper tantrums. That’s why whenever we go we can notice a child staring at a screen almost as big as its head.
But, this thing known as “screen time” has created a brand new mental health and behavioral problems in children. Some of them just cry, some break things and others even threaten suicide.
Screen Dependency Disorder: Too Much of Screen Time Clarified
Regardless of what the kids are doing with their smartphones or tablets (using some apps or playing video games) it is proven that the number of boys and girls who become addicted to them has drastically risen. Why is that so? Mainly because they spend too much (unregulated) time playing with them.
Children’s brains are not as developed as adult’s brains. Therefore children’s brains are at greater risk of developing some type of screen dependency disorder. Here are some of the classifications of screen dependency disorders:
- Internet addiction disorder
- Mobile phone dependence
- Internet gaming disorder
- Facebook addiction
- Problematic internet use
- Social network site addiction
- Compulsive internet use
- Online game addiction
- Pathological video game use
- Pathological technology use
- Video game addiction
Dr. Aric Sigman made a research and published it in the Journal of the International Child Neurology Association. He claims that nowadays the term ‘addiction’ is increasingly used to explain the rising number of children who are engaged in diversity of different screen activities in a problematic or dependent manner.
8 Main Symptoms of a Screen Dependency Disorder
Here are some of the symptoms that may appear in your child or grandchild if it spends too much time on the internet or playing computer games:
- Symptoms of withdrawal
- Increased tolerance
- Inability to stop or even reduce screen activities
- Losing interest for the outside world
- Continuing with the screen activities despite the negative consequences
- Not admitting the exact time of screen use
- Use to escape adverse moods
How Common Is Screen Dependency Disorder Among Children?
According to a study conducted in 2015 and published in Behavioral Sciences, 12% of the young American adolescents suffer from pathological video game use. Even though playing video games does not require use of some chemical substances or intoxication, still the researchers claim that the symptoms are very similar to those who are addicted to some substance use.
Dr. George Lynn, a psychotherapist from Seattle, claims that 80% of the problems between parents and children come as a result of uncontrolled gaming, watching too many online videos or spending too much time on social networks.
Dr. Lynn is himself witness to so many cases where children sleep for only two or three hours at night, which leads to many inevitable personality issues.
What Happens in Our Children’s Brains When They Spend Too Much Time on Screen Activities?
The effects of a screen dependency disorder can be devastating for children. Claudette Avelino-Tandoc, Early Childhood Education consultant and Family Life and Child Development specialist, claims that children who suffer from screen dependency disorder usually develop sleep problems, back pain, weight loss or gain, problems with their vision, headaches, loneliness, anxiety and many other similar problems.
Sometimes these symptoms can turn into long-turn effects which can be as severe as brain damage. Actually, several studies that explored the effects of screen dependency disorder have discovered that children’s brain reduces in size or loses tissue in the frontal lobe, striatum and insula. These parts of the brain are responsible for organization and planning, control of socially unacceptable impulses and the development of empathy and compassion as well.
According to Dr. Avelino-Tandoc, gadgets and devices are not harmful by themselves. They are helpful and necessary for communication, learning, research and entertainment. It’s important for the children to learn how to manipulate these tools. However, parents are those who need to set time limit between screen time and other activities that are essential for children’s development.
Advices for Parents Whose Children Suffer From Screen Dependency Disorder
The American Academy of Pediatrics together with Dr. Lynn offer few tips for parents concerning the use of gadgets and devices:
- If your child is younger than 18 months, it shouldn’t be exposed to screen media, except video-chatting. Children between 18 and 24 months of age can be introduced to digital media, but the parents should choose high-quality programming and watch it together with their children so that they can help them understand what they are watching.
- If your child is 2 to 5 years old, you should limit screen use to 1 hour every day and also choose high-quality programs. You should also watch it together with your child so that you can help in understanding of the content it is watching and try to apply it to the world around you.
- If your child is 6 years old or older, place strict screen time limits and carefully choose the type of media. Also you should make sure that the children get adequate sleep, physical activities and other behaviors that are extremely important for their health.
- Set ground rules as early as possible and implement them by practicing media-free times together, like preparing dinner, playing with toys and some activities outside the house.
- Talk with your child; tell him/her what he/she has to know about online citizenship and safety. Also teach her/him how he/she should treat others both online and offline.