Screen time could be the reason why your child feels irritable, depressed and unmotivated.
Now, more than ever, children seem to be easily irritated or alternatively, deeply unmotivated and apathetic. Psychiatrist Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D. believes that these emotional and mental states are brought on by children’s exposure to electronics. She explains that children with the aforementioned symptoms frequently get diagnosed with mental health disorders such as depression, ADHD or bipolar disorder; however, despite the medication and therapy which they receive, they do not seem to show improvement and progression.
Consequently, Dr. Dunckley explains that alongside such treatment, in today’s world, children should also be encouraged to try electronic fasts; that is, they should eliminate the use of all electronic devices for several weeks in order to improve their mental and emotional wellbeing.
An ‘electronics fast’ can help improve your child’s health.
Being away from electronic devices makes way for other, more valuable experiences and activities which are undoubtedly beneficial for a young child. Some examples include physical activity and motivation to get creative. What is more, an electronics fast helps improve the physical and mental wellbeing of the child; that is to say, decreasing screen time improves sleep and focus, making it easier to manage stress and strong emotions. Dr. Dunckley further explains that the reason an electronics fast is so beneficial is because it greatly decreases harmful screen time.
3 ways screen time harms your child:
1. Sleep disruption
Exposure to electronic devices desynchronizes the child’s body clock. This is as a result of the screen which mimics daytime light and suppresses melatonin – the hormone which regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
2. Alteration of the brain’s reward system
Research has found that when exposed to video games, children’s brains release dopamine – the hormone which allows us to feel pleasure. Overexposure to video games can alter the brain’s reward system as the children become desensitised and are subsequently, left continuously seeking new ways to obtain pleasure.
3. Sensory overload and depletion of mental energy
It is not surprising that young children are more sensitive to electronics than adults. Long exposure to electronics creates a sensory overload which can overwhelm a child and make it lose focus. Being overwhelmed and overloaded can result in depletion of mental energy and according to Dr. Dunckley, ‘one way to temporarily “boost” depleted reserves is to become angry, so meltdowns actually become a coping mechanism’.
Admittedly, it is close to impossible to completely eliminate electronics from our day-to-day lives; however, unrestricted screen time is doing more harm than good. Regulating and decreasing screen time is beneficial not only for the child, but for the family as a whole. Ultimately, less screen time also makes way for establishing stronger and more meaningful connections with the people around you.