The Unseen Impact of Screen Time on Kids: Why Less is More

September 1, 2023

As we move further into the digital age, electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions have become integral parts of our daily lives. While they certainly offer numerous benefits regarding information access and connectivity, concerns have been raised about the impacts of excessive screen time on children’s health and development.

The Adverse Effects of Excessive Screen Time

Research indicates that excessive screen time can negatively impact children’s physical and mental health. Physically, prolonged screen time is often sedentary and may contribute to obesity, as children in front of screens for hours are likely to have less time for physical activity. It may also lead to poor posture and musculoskeletal problems and impair vision due to prolonged exposure to blue light from screens.

Mentally, excessive screen time can lead to difficulties with sleep, given that the blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. It may also cause emotional and social problems, as the excessive use of screens can limit children’s opportunities for face-to-face social interaction. Additionally, research has linked excessive screen time with higher levels of anxiety, depression, and attention problems.

Impacts on the Brain and Nervous System

Screen time can significantly influence the developing brain in children, primarily in areas associated with reward processing, attention, and sensory integration.

The stimulation that screens provide — fast-paced, flashy, and frequently changing — is far more intense than what is found in the natural environment. This heightened stimulation activates the brain’s reward system, causing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Over time, the brain gets accustomed to these dopamine surges, which can lead to problems such as attention deficit disorders, as the usual pace of real life cannot match the stimulation provided by screens.

Furthermore, excessive screen time may impact areas of the brain involved in critical thinking and reasoning – the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is essential for impulse control, decision-making, emotional regulation, and task completion, and its development may be impaired by excessive screen use.

The Importance and Benefits of Limiting Screen Time

Given these potential risks, it is crucial to establish healthy screen time habits for children. Limiting screen time can help prevent physical health problems like obesity and vision impairment, improve sleep patterns, and reduce the risk of mental health issues.

Moreover, limiting screen time offers children more time for physical play, face-to-face social interaction, and creative pursuits, all of which are fundamental to their development. They have more opportunities to develop critical life skills, such as problem-solving, social interaction, and emotional resilience. It also allows children to engage more with their environment, fostering a sense of curiosity and a love for learning that extends beyond the digital world.

Why Touch Therapy

Touch therapy, also known as tactile therapy, can be a powerful alternative to screen time, providing numerous physical and psychological benefits. The primary neurotransmitters involved in touch therapy are serotonin and dopamine, both of which play a significant role in mood regulation.

Serotonin, often referred to as the ‘happy hormone,’ helps regulate mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, and memory. On the other hand, dopamine, also known as the ‘feel-good hormone,’ is associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

Touch therapy can stimulate the production of these neurotransmitters, fostering a sense of well-being and relaxation. It can also decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Thus, touch therapy can help children better manage stress and anxiety, improve their mood, and promote a sense of calm and relaxation.

Furthermore, touch therapy can improve children’s sensory awareness, helping them feel more connected with their bodies and their environment. It can provide a comforting and nurturing experience, promoting a stronger sense of security and attachment, which is essential for a child’s emotional and social development.

While screen time can offer benefits such as learning and entertainment, ensuring it does not replace essential activities like physical play, social interaction, and rest is crucial. The use of touch therapy as a holistic approach can stimulate neurotransmitter production, offering a beneficial and healthy balance in children’s lives. Parental guidance and model behavior also play a crucial role in shaping a child’s relationship with technology, promoting a healthier, more active, and balanced lifestyle.