Parents seek psychological counseling to help their children with a variety of behavioral and emotional issues. It's becoming commonplace for children to be depressed, apathetic or amped up and prone to tantrums, according to child psychiatrist Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D., in an article for Psychology Today. It seems there is a close link between these problems and too much electronic screen time. Here are some reasons why you should give your child a break from exposure to electronic screens.
1. Better quality sleep. Dunckley describes kids today as "wired and tired." They're amped up but exhausted at the same time. The light from screens is interfering with the body's natural production of melatonin. This can throw the child's internal clock out of whack, interfering with the ability to sleep deeply. It also leads to hormone imbalances and even brain inflammation. While you might think you'll stress your child out by taking their devices away from them at night, you'll actually lower their stress levels and improve their sleep by reducing their exposure to light at night.
2. Less anger and aggression. Screen time uses up a child's mental energy, leaving them with a lowered reserve of energy to spend on paying attention. It's been found that a lack of focus is frequently the cause of anger outbursts and aggression seen in children. Limiting screen time can help your child to maintain the energy stores they need to focus and regulate their behavior.
3. Better moderated dopamine levels. Dopamine, the feel-good chemical, plays a central role in focus and motivation in children and adults. Video games stimulate a significant amount of dopamine production, which makes the brain less sensitive to its effects over time. It's similar to drug addiction where a user needs more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect. In children, the way electronics interfere with dopamine sensitivity can have a very negative impact on their behavior and emotions.
How to Limit Screen Time
Dunckley recommends putting your children on a complete screen "fast" for several weeks to help a child with behavioral and emotional issues regain equilibrium. To limit screen time, some parents put a reward system in place that rewards the child with a screen-time token for each chore or good behavior.
One token will be worth a predetermined amount of screen time, such as 15 minutes. One mom blogger even has a system where a child can choose to skip a chore in exchange for giving up some of their tokens. She believes her system not only limits screen time but also teaches her children about budgeting and decision making.
For a detailed plan to change your child's relationship with electronic screens, child psychiatrist Dunckley has written a book with a four-week plan. To learn more, contact a company like Living Hope Clinic.