I’ve preached about screen time to clients and friends alike for years. And, right now, I’m in the middle of prime screen “time sucking” age with my 8 and 12 year old kids. Screens are involved in so much of our daily lives, that we don’t always realize how much time we spend looking at a screen. For adults, eh, not so great, but for our childrens’ developing minds, not good, NOT GOOD AT ALL!
Screen time includes computers, tablets, laptops, smartphones, iPods, iPads, video games, etc. Basically, anything that has a screen and gets plugged in. We refer to the whole bundle as “electronics” in our house.
There are studies that say kids should not have “too much” screen time, but how much is “too much?” The articles I’ve read say the national average is 7 hours a day! That’s way too much! The general consensus is 2 hours a day, but there are variations with age. For example, the AAP recommends for children less than 2 years old, little or no screen time. Not a problem when I had just Josh, he wasn’t interested in TV anyway. But when Drew Elizabeth came along, Josh was already watching TV, so she was exposed by just being in the same room.
Why does limiting screen time matter you might ask? Oh, that sweet,wonderful denial I’ve had with screen time for years. I know too much screen time is not good for your brain, I’m not one of those moms that plopped her kids down in front of the TV so that she could get something done, well, maybe on occasion, but that’s real life. I also spent plenty of time helping my kids do crafty things, and play outside, and just go be kids with unscheduled time, because that is so important! I read an article recently about how the screen and video gaming affects the neurotransmitters, like dopamine, in the brain, and not for the better. This means screen time can have an impact on every aspect of your life. Too much screen time disturbs sleep, causes attention problems, causes problems focusing, and can easily lead to obesity. There are lots of other specifics, and NIH has details about this if you are interested, click here.
I found a fascinating article about brain changes associated with increased screen time at PsychologyToday.com. This article makes me even more determine to limit the amount of screen time my kids get. Here are a few good reasons;
- “Gray matter atrophy: Multiple studies have shown atrophy (shrinkage or loss of tissue volume) in gray matter areas (where “processing” occurs) in internet/gaming addiction (Zhou 2011, Yuan 2011, Weng 2013,and Weng 2012). Areas affected included the important frontal lobe, which governs executive functions, such as planning, planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control (“getting stuff done”). 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.”
- “Cravings and impaired dopamine function: Research on video games have shown dopamine (implicated in reward processing and addiction) is released during gaming (Koepp 1998 and Kuhn 2011) and that craving or urges for gaming produces brain changes that are similar to drug cravings (Ko 2009, Han 2011).”
- “In short, excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills.”
Honestly, I don’t need research to tell me kids need less screen time. My wonderful, adorable Joshua proves it. We’ve had more than one morning that has turned into complete chaos because Joshua isn’t capable of getting himself together. It didn’t take too many years before I started to put the correlation together…. Unlimited screen time the night or day before and the following morning he was disastrous. Little or limited screen time the day or night before school, and mornings were more pleasant, don’t get me wrong, they weren’t all peaches and cream, this is Joshua I’m referring to. 🙂 When I point this new revelation out to him, he is in total denial. Unfortunately, I have the research, and I live it, there is NO denying it! The hard part isn’t knowing the problem, the hard part is fixing the problem. It’s not any easier in my house than in anyone elses, these things need constant review and revamping. Which lead to my most recent “Bright idea!”
So, my Bright idea is to have a “sign in sheet” for screen time for my kids. Ha, you may be saying, but don’t laugh unless you’ve tried it and failed. If you have, bring on the strategies that work, please! I’m hopeful that this will put a stop to the “time suck” that electronics and screens can have on our day. Some of you may think this is brilliant, I have those ideas every now and again. We shall see… I think we will all sadly realize that we are way over our “screen time” limit in this house. I’m on a mission to prove to my kids we need to cut back.
So, as soon as my daughter gets off the computer (umm humph) I’m going to make a “Screen Time Sign in ” sheet and put it on the fridge. I’ve been keeping track; so far Drew has had about 1 1/2 hours, and Josh my boy is about to hit his 2 hour limit for the day. “Damn, she’s serious”, you may be thinking. Yes, I am, but I’m also realistic… This is a long weekend, with a lot of family, food and spare time. I am going to give my kids some extra time on those days. I know the research I just quoted gives me every reason not to, but, all in all, they are only kids once, they only have Thanksgiving break once a year, and I’m not as strict a Drill Sergeant as I portray myself sometimes. So, I’ve decided to let them have more screen time, but not unlimited screen time. 😉
This journey is a tough one, I try my best to enjoy the challenges as well as the fun stuff. I’ve decided that God has blessed me with these 2 smart, cute, crazy kids, and entrusted that I could raise them as productive members of our society. I’m doing my best, and along the way I’m Enjoying the Journey, & I hope you are too! 😉