Being a parent has always been challenging. Now, thanks to tablets, smartphones, video games and more, our role has become even more complex.
It isn’t just the struggle to get kids to put their phones down and talk with us – though that’s a serious issue in most families. New research from the National Institutes of Health suggests that screen time is actually affecting our children’s brains.
The NIH study looked at 4,500 children ages 9 and 10, and found that those who spend more than 2 hours on screens daily score lower on thinking and language tests. Brain scans showed that kids who spend 7 hours or more on smartphones, tablets and other digital devices actually show premature thinning of the brain cortex, the outermost layer that processes information from the physical world.
There is also strong evidence that the blue light emitted by digital devices can interfere with the inner rhythms that regulate our sleep. With more and more kids experiencing sleep problems, which can lead to even more troubles downstream, the use of digital devices is a real concern that parents can’t ignore.
We should keep in mind that the NIH study is the first of its kind. It will take years before we know exactly how digital devices are affecting our kids. But that doesn’t mean we can’t adopt thoughtful standards for our children right now.
As an experienced family therapist, I am working with parents in the Portland and Wilsonville area who are concerned about their children’s use of digital devices. I am convinced that practical, common-sense limits can be adopted to protect our kids’ growing brains and assure restful sleep.
With screens all around us in everyday life, and virtually every kid equipped with a smartphone, it might be hard to envision what rules you can realistically set and enforce. I will work with you to develop the right guidelines for your family’s unique needs.
It’s not uncommon for kids to object when we ask them to put down their devices or step away from the gaming console. However, some parents see a more serious pattern in their families. Digital addiction is a problem for many children and teens – one that calls for professional guidance and support.
According to a report in Psychology Today, here are some of the worrisome patterns that parents are reporting.
- It is increasingly hard for my child to stop using screen media.
- The first thing my child wants to do after school is play video games, watch TV or spend time on his or her smartphone.
- After a rough day, gaming or screen time seem to be the only thing that makes my child feel better.
- My child’s screen use creates problems in our family.
- The amount of time my child wants to spend on digital media keeps growing.
- My child often sneaks screen media.
If tech abuse is causing disruption in your child’s life, I’m ready to help. Reach out to me now to schedule a conversation about your family’s unique situation and needs.