Kid Crack – Too Much Screen Time

Two Christmases ago, “Santa” brought my son an Android Tablet, and with it came the great screen time debate. Although I allowed it, I’ve really grown to hate that Tablet. It’s like crack for kids, or what I now refer to as Kid Crack.

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Hand Held Kid Crack

I used to allow 30 minutes of Kid Crack per day, and only educational apps. Then I permitted a little extra Tablet on the weekends, and downloaded a few popular kid’s games.  Then I became lax and allowed a little more screen time in general, and more games. And do you know what happened? My sweet little boy turned into a fiend waiting for his next fix! He was obsessed with Angry Birds, Minecraft, Minion Rush, Madden, and fighting games like Real Steel and Iron Man. With the increased screen time came resentment and arguing when his time was up: begging for more, crying if he didn’t finish his game, and storming out of the room.  I also noticed that with increased screen time my son’s overall demeanor changed. He was more easily distracted and had difficulty focusing, calming down, and listening. Immediately after Tablet time he seemed more spun up, anxious, argumentative, and irritable. Likewise, when I decreased his screen time (or cut it out altogether), his behavior improved tremendously.

What I’ve learned over time is that my son’s erratic behavior is occurring in kids and adolescents everywhere. Studies show that too much screen time actually damages the brain, impairs the capacity to develop healthy social skills, and can cause physical ailments.

Below are some negative effects of screen time:

Impaired Dopamine Function – Dopamine is a brain chemical that triggers reward behavior and addiction. This chemical is released during gaming or watching intense TV programs, causing the urge for more.  The result?  Brain stimuli that mirror drug cravings.

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Lap Top Kid Crack

Brain Atrophy – Several studies found that the brain’s gray matter loses volume in youth who are exposed to too much screen time. Gray matter is responsible for planning, organizing, impulse control, empathy, and the ability to discern emotion – very necessary life skills.

Brain Instability – Excessive screen time diminishes the brain’s white matter. This causes communication loss between brain hemispheres and effects cognitive, emotional, and survival centers in the brain.

Vision Problems – Staring at a screen for extended amounts of time causes eye strain and can lead to headaches and vision impairment.

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Gaming Kid Crack

Physical Development Issues – Postures and hand positions used  in gaming or staring at an electronic device can lead to back pain, arthritis, repetitive motion injury, and migraines. Physical inactivity while parked in front of the screen also contributes to childhood obesity.

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TV Kid Crack

Aggression – Many games and TV shows depict violence, weapons, fighting, and killing. Studies show that children who spend time watching violent or aggressive media are far more likely to be aggressive at home and at school.

Loss of Social Skills – Kids who spend excessive time interacting with electronic devices lack the ability to interact with others. Underdeveloped social skills can result in limitations in employment, friendships, and simple social etiquette.

Tips for reducing the screen impact in your home:

Set a goal to decrease the total amount of screen time allowed per day – for grown ups too!

Don’t use the TV as a source of background noise.

Schedule “No Electronics” days/nights, and instead enjoy board games, puzzles, and outdoor activities.

No TV/ electronic devices in bedrooms.

No TV/ electronics during meals or homework.

Greatly restrict the amount of intense or violent media allowed in the home.

Refer to the following links for screen time study data referenced in this post:
Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health
US National Library of Medicine
The Neural Basis of Video Gaming
Decreased Functional Brain Activity in Adolescents with Internet Addiction
Six Negative Effects of Too Much Screen Time for Kids

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4 Responses to Kid Crack – Too Much Screen Time

  1. Cheryl April 9, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    Good data….easy way to occupy kids, but like every thing…..in excess, it can be bad. Constructively occupying kids time is a tough job. Thanks for sharing.

    • Toni
      Toni April 27, 2016 at 10:39 pm #

      Thanks for reading my post!
      Definitely different than when we were growing up!

  2. Katie
    Katie April 27, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    I wonder if this applies to adults too. I feel a little crazy/overwhelmed when I’ve been online for too long too

  3. Toni
    Toni April 27, 2016 at 10:41 pm #

    Haha it totally applies to me. I got hooked on Minecraft! What am I, 10? I def sleep better and feel better over all the less time I spend on e-crack.