Inside: Screens have become a huge part of our lives. Have you ever wondered how screen time affects your child? I went looking for answers and discovered what recent studies and brain scans have to tell us about the impact of screen time on our children’s brains. Take a moment to read the research and find out how to find a healthy balance (includes free info sheet and helpful tools).
I have a confession. I’m not going to make it easy for you. This could be a hard post to read. It sure as heck was a difficult one to write.
I’ve procrastinated for months.
But here’s the thing.
I simply can’t stay quiet any longer.
It all started when I read Hey Internet- Let’s Have An Honest Talk About Screens This Summer by Kristen Welch
This powerful post touches on the sorrow of screen addiction in children, the need to regulate screen use, and the struggle for families to find a balance. It is well worth the read!
And it got me wondering
How does technology affect us?
I looked at some of the studies and research
What did I find?
Screen time has a HUGE impact on the brain, sleep rhythms, family life and child development (more about that later).
But one discovery shocked me to the core.
In a nutshell scientists have found that gaming releases so much dopamine that on a brain scan it looks the same as cocaine use.” Source
Let that sink in for a moment, because when I first read it I just about fell out of my chair.
No wonder we have such a hard time finding a balance.
And now scientists are beginning to suspect it isn’t just gaming that does this, but all interactive screen use.
The almost irresistible pull of the screens
I’ve seen this in action
- Every time I find myself mindlessly scrolling through my social media feed far longer than I should.
- Every time I reach for my computer even though I only put it down 15 minutes ago. Sound familiar?
- When I witness parents glued to their screens while their kids desperately try to get their attention.
- When I see young tweens so engrossed by screens that they don’t bother to eat all day.
I’ll be the first one to say that I love technology. My computer allows me to stay in contact with my family in so many wonderful ways.
I love that I have easy access to millions of facts, recipes, movies, and craft ideas .
I can even earn a part time income.
But there is a darker side isn’t there? And scientists are only just starting to realize how all this technology is starting to affect us.
And families like yours and mine are struggling for balance.
This is not going away you guys. If anything the pressure is probably going to increase. We are exposed to new technology, apps, and social media everyday. And we are just starting to discover how it affects our children (and us).
- It is going to take some brave parenting to resist this pressure.
- It is going to take some brave steps to break our screen habits.
What can we do?
- Read more about the impact of electronic media on your kids and how it affects all of us. I’ve got a helpful information sheet to offer below.
- Take a good look at the way you use screens in your family. Decide if you need to make adjustments. You can find a tool to help you do that here.
Ok take a deep breath folks! Now it gets real
- Lead the way and model proper screen use. Don’t let the TV run in the background all day. Put your phone down when you interact with your family, and set up device free times and zones in your house. Consider having a screen free day (AGHHHHH!)
- Schedule regular recreational screen use for a limited amount of time. This way your kids will know what to expect. Experts recommend no more than one to two hours per day and even less for the little ones.
- Every family has to figure out their own schedules and limits. There is no right or wrong way. You need to find out what works best for you. Obviously helping children learn to self-regulate would be ideal, but this is no easy task. The addictive pull of the screens is going to be very hard for many kids to resist. This is probably one of those instances when we have to step in to regulate our kids until they have the maturity to do it for themselves.
- Here’s a super helpful device that will make this regulation easier. (Note: this is not an affiliate link. I’ve heard very good things about this device from parents.)
- Shut off all screens one to two hours before bedtime to allow kids (and grown-ups) to unwind and allow the natural production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) in the brain, so they can sleep.
It’s not all bad news!
All this information about the impact of screens can be very alarming. The idea of setting limits and (even worse) having to enforce them can be exhausting. Facing our screen own addictions can be scary.
Still I have some good news!
When the screens go off the magic begins
At first your kids may complain bitterly that they are bored. At first you may find yourself restless and irritable. Remember this is part and parcel of withdrawal.
Still it won’t be long before your kids begin to engage in free play and find lots of creative things to do and that has all kinds of benefits.
You will suddenly find you have time for all kinds of family fun!
You will discover the joy of savoring the seasons and maybe engage in some acts of kindness.
Not sure about this? Read Unplugged: Why We Quit All Screens to see the goodness that happens when the screens go off.
One last word
I understand if you are struggling with this.
I am struggling too.
Even though I do not have children at home any more I recognize that I need to stop mindlessly using my computer. And it is hard.
I know that it is not easy to set up controls and regulate our children’s screen use, because they won’t thank us for it.
But we can be brave together. As parents we all work hard to keep our kids away from drugs like cocaine. Now we need to start protecting them from the harmful impacts of too much screen time.
Because that’s our job.
Download the information sheet
Here’s a sneak preview
Check out my Screen Free Resources Pinterest Board.
Screen Free Resources