There’s a growing concern among parents and healthcare providers about screen time. Kids are getting a lot of it, and it has been found to cause all kinds of problems. For starters, staring at screens too long can cause you to have dry eyes or computer vision syndrome, which can become serious if it’s not treated right away. But what’s more than that, in a small segment of the population screen time can cause symptoms of addiction.
Winning a video game releases dopamine in the brain, which is the same feel-good chemical that can trigger addiction in people who are predisposed to it. Imagine studies confirm that screen interaction and cocaine affect our frontal cortexes the same way. While there are certainly other issues with drugs like cocaine, the fact that screen time can become an addiction in much the same way is reason for concern.
So what can parents do to ensure their kids don’t fall victim to the digital menace? The biggest recommendation pediatricians give is to set limits on screen time. Kids average 3 hours a day on screens, 50% more than the 2 hours maximum recommended by pediatricians. But we live in a digital world now, so how are parent supposed to keep up?
First, make hard rules about when and where digital devices can be used. There should be no devices in a child’s room for numerous reasons, not the least of which is so they can sleep. Everyone, including parents, should put digital devices away for family meal times. Family activities can also help cut down on screen time for everyone. Have a regular family game night and take time to get outdoors into nature so you don’t fall into the habit of always flipping on the television for entertainment.
While the risk of a serious screen addiction is still fairly low, there are other serious concerns with screens for all ages. Nearsightedness is skyrocketing, and it is being blamed on both too much screen time and not enough sunlight. Dry eye syndrome is another serious problem that can be caused by screens. While it doesn’t sound serious, staring at screens causes you to blink less, and blinking less can lead to less moisture in your eyeballs. If this is sustained for a long period of time you can have serious permanent damage to your vision.
Learn more about combating digital addiction from this infographic.