In our last blog, we asked you to take a look at your family’s relationship with screen time, but why is it so important for us to ask ourselves these questions? As a mental health provider, I continue to encounter children and adolescents who are finding it increasingly hard to maintain focus, control impulsivity, and negotiate healthy social interactions with others their age. According to the CDC, children are spending anywhere from 6-9 hours per day with their TV’s, cell phones, computers, and other screens combined . With such a large amount of their time being occupied by screens, the question becomes, ‘what aren’t kids doing during those hours?’ During hours of screen time, they are not engaging in physical activity, playing outside, or getting the necessary face to face social connection that comes from these children and adolescent development activities. Have you ever restricted video games or taken your child’s cell phone away and been faced with a complete meltdown? In the work I do, I see these meltdowns all the time. This is not by accident. Social media, video games, and even TV shows are designed to keep us coming back. They trigger the pleasure centers of our brains and release feel-good chemicals that ensure we will be compelled to reengage with our cell phones, log back into our games, and spend increasing amounts of time with these devices. Just as we practice moderation in other areas of our life, it is important we practice moderation with our screen time. In my work, I have watched the improvements in a child or adolescent’s social development and emotional health when they get support in reducing their screen time each day. Next week we will give you some tips and tricks on how to budget your child’s time to include a well-rounded set of activities to enhance your free time. We will also help you initiate the conversation of monitoring and limiting screen time as a healthy way of living, rather than as a punishment.
Suzette Toscano, LMFT