How Does Screen Time Affect Your Brain?

screen time

With electronic screens taking over our world, we’ve seen an increased screen time across the generations. We all know that too much screen time is bad– but how bad is it really? It is inevitable that our children will need electronic screens to function in today’s world, but when kids have too much screen time some problems can arise. Four areas that are negatively impacted by excess screen time are social, emotional, biological and creativity.

Screen Time’s Affect on Social 

Electronic games are increasingly becoming more social. One of the major pulls to keep playing is the collaborative nature of many of the most popular online games such as Fortnight and Call Of Duty. This is not inherently negative, however, if the majority of a youth’s after school social time is spent gaming, alarm bells should go off. Increasingly, there is less and less time for our youth to practice and improve their social interactions in a physical group setting. Being comfortable in a group is essential to healthy self-esteem and getting projects completed. Children and teens should be interacting more with people face-to-face than on a screen.

Emotional Repercussions of Screen Time 

Children, unlike adults, have not had sufficient practice in basic conflict resolution skills, this can be largely attributed to increased screen time. How do you problem solve a conflict that occurs over a screen? Children and young adults may come to expect that emotional issues can be resolved by the click of a button. More frequently what I see is “tuning out” emotions or disengaging. When you are dealing with a challenging thought, emotion or task, it’s easy to just switch to the next exciting video, gadget or photo that catches your attention. Screens can become an unhealthy way to detach from your emotions.  Delaying gratification, essential to most peoples long term success, is not typically a skill that is enhanced by using screens.

Biological Effects of Screen Time 

Blue Light Infiltration

Increasing screen times results in increase of blue light. Blue light coming from any screen has been shown to disrupt sleep. There are filters in certain devices, but not all have this capability. I always encourage kids to stop using any screen at least one hour prior to bed to ensure that they can calm their minds down and settle in. Regular bedtime rituals such as a warm bath and reading books allow good bonding time and allow children’s minds to settle down naturally prior to bed.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is key to normal neurological development. When kids spend more time on screens than being active, it can have a detrimental result on their brain. Preschool-aged kids need at least 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity daily — some children need even more! The release of dopamine in exercise enhances concentration and focus. Vigorous physical activity has a calming effect especially with children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Screen Time Negatively Affects Creativity

What ever happened to being bored? Some of my most vivid childhood memories are the adventures I had with my friends in the woods behind my home in Massachusetts. When kids spend more time in front of a screen, they have a system dictating their imagination and next moves. In real-life play, children reenact joys, conflicts and foster growing creativity. Play is essential to building fine and gross motor skills. Children use their hands to cut, draw, color, tape and make their ideas reality. In groups, they may disagree on a design and must reconcile with their partners to move forward. This is crucial to their development of problem solving skills. They are practicing to be effective adults. Kids need to be bored. Kids also need supervision and guidance to model effective problem solving techniques.

Follow this link to make a screen time plan for your family.