The world today is overrun by technology. While technology has aided society with advancements, automation and conveniences, it also presents unfortunate consequences for our children when not managed well.
Technology has made it convenient to keep children occupied, while we tend to our everyday tasks. But what impact is the constant use of tablets, television, phones and computers having on our children?
Most apps including social media such as Facebook and Instagram and high-profile games such as Fortnite and Minecraft are designed to play into our rewards centre. Even educational applications such as ‘Reading Eggs’ for younger children use rewards to encourage children to complete each stage of the learning ‘game’ before moving onto the next.
These triggers of rewards release a hormone in our brains called dopamine. When we receive a reward, a release of dopamine floods the body and we feel satisfied, even euphoric. Dopamine is responsible for behavioural reinforcement. It motivates us to perform a particular behaviour again and again leaving other activities feeling less rewarding.
Without even realising it, we start seeking the dopamine hit.
How does screen time effect social and emotional behaviours?
Between the ages of 0 and 2 years, an infant’s brain triples in size. A parent’s voice, touch, and eventually play can help build pathways in their brain that aid them in learning how to bond emotionally, communicate and empathise with other people.
Some of the neurobiological effects of technology on the developing brain can include:
- Repeated release of dopamine, which increases pleasure and addiction
- Emotional numbing due to overproduction of dopamine
- Chronic need for stimulation and instant gratification
- Decrease in focus and attention span
- Reduced density of white and grey matter in brain areas related to motor control, cognition and motivation
- Blue light - Shut down of the pineal gland that releases melatonin (a natural hormone to induce sleep) – and as a result poor sleeping.
- Sensory overload
- Short-sight bias causing early onset blindness
Managing Screen Time in Your Family
Designing a family routine that is consistent and includes specific rules around screen time will greatly benefit you and your children.
Below is our Future Stars guide on how to regulate the use of screen time for the best outcomes;
Some Research and Guidelines to consider when designing your routine.
Routine - Research and Guidelines
- We recommend stopping any device usage at least 60 minutes (2-3 hours recommended) before sleeping to promote restful sleep.
- Start each day without technology to improve focus, motivation and presence.
- Don’t use technology during mealtimes as this results in a child “increasing their bid for attention” and reduces the quality of the relationship.
Behavioural Research and Guidelines
Below are some signs that your children might be developing an unhealthy addiction to technology usage:
- Lack interest in other activities
- Constant distraction by technology
- Problematic behaviour when unable to access digital devices
- Constant talking about ‘screen time’
- Withdrawal symptoms
Create strict boundaries around the use of technology for the family, not just for children. Implement changes slowly!
Here are some helpful links to aid parents and carers in restricting screen time:
Most operating systems assist families through Parental Controls and Screen Time management. For example, on iOS:
Parental Controls: https://support.apple.com/en-au/ HT201304
Screen Time Controls: https://support.apple.com/en-au/ guide/ipad/ipad1a175601/ios