Excessive screen time is common today. Smartphones, televisions, and computers are often used as babysitters for children, even infants. Too much screen time, especially when children are exposed to violence in video games, television and movies (games with 17+ ratings and rated R movies), can change the way their brains respond. They can make children that were once smart and socially engaged, into children that are withdrawn and aggressive. For children and youth that struggle with technology or gaming addiction, screens turn into their drug of choice. A recent article out of the UK interviews a mother of a 12 year old son who has become what she calls, a “monster” – she says she feels like she is living with a drug addict.
He won’t get off the computer to eat or sleep unless he is prompted to do so. The article explains that she let her son game on a computer and console starting at age 8 and that is when things began going downhill. Today, he sabotages family events because he has difficulty detaching himself from gaming. He hates school and acts out in violence. The family is suffering because of his addiction. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation for many families today. Children and youth of varying ages struggle with putting the games down in order to live real life. An Australian study of 3,427 Australian children aged four, six and eight showed a direct correlation between screen time and reduced sleep. Another UK study showed that electronic gadgets could be to blame for a 70% jump in speech problems in six years. (1)
If children are truly addicted to gaming, taking the game away and forcing them to detach means that they can become depressed or can act out in violence or aggression. If you’re struggling in your home to limit your children’s screen time, it’s important to remember that if it is abused, it can turn into a full blown addiction in a short amount of time. Moderation is key. Treat the television, computer, iPad, or phone as a privilege – it is not a right that children have. Let them earn time to play on the television or computer. Establish clear rules – limit the amount of time they can watch or play, and be sure that you moderate what content they are seeing. Violence in movies or on games is everywhere and needs to be restricted. Technology can be used in a healthy way, so lay out clear guidelines from the get go.
- 1.Hansen, Jane. “Video games turned my son into a raging school-hating monster.” The Sunday Telegraph. July 6, 2014. Accessed July 12, 2014. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/video-games-turned-my-son-into-raging-schoolhating-monster/story-fni0cx12-1226978982967?nk=37bf514d001e6b7060f481f0987e3774