Screen Dependency Is A Disorder That's Doing Real Damage To Your Child's Brain

It’s crucial for you to know why you should limit screen time. Children between the ages of two and five are especially vulnerable to overuse. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines saying children in this age group should limit screen time to one hour per day. Zero screen time is recommended for children younger than this age range.

Many in-depth research studies show the harmful effects of too much screen time. Your child may experience issues with sleeping, socializing, and communicating. Brain development can be delayed, too. The most recent studies reveal that children who get too much screen time are at risk for ‘Screen Dependency Disorder’.

What Is Screen Dependency Disorder?

Screen Dependency Disorder (SSD) is used to describe addictive behavior related to excessive screen time. This is confirmed in ‘Screen Dependency Disorders: A New Challenge for Child Neurology’, a 2017 research paper by Dr. Aric Sigman. Screen Dependency Disorder is very similar to Internet Addiction Disorder.

Input from specialist Claudette Avelino-Tandoc from San Beda College in the Philippines sheds more light on the issue. As an Early Childhood Education consultant and Family Life and Child Development Specialist, she notes that Screen Dependency Disorder is found in children as young as three or four years old.

She says that children often use screen devices immediately upon waking up, while they’re eating, and throughout the entire day. They’re doing anything from watching cartoons to using interactive game apps.

SDD is associated with many physical and emotional symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Backaches
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Vision problems
  • Poor eating habits
  • Anxiety
  • Isolation
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Agitation
  • Mood swings

Sigman’s research provides more alarming effects of Screen Dependency Disorder. Children with this disorder may have dependency problems, behavioral issues, inability to stop or decrease screen time, loss of other interests, and dishonesty about screen use. Children with SDD may even continue excessive screen time at the risk of consequences laid out by you or other caregivers.

When To Seek Help For Screen Dependency Disorder

If you are concerned about your child’s screen time usage, Avelino-Tandoc recommends visiting a developmental pediatrician. A professional assessment can lead to a formal diagnosis of Screen Dependency Disorder.

Avelino-Tandoc also notes that you should be on high alert when children are distracted from their normal routines and family time due to screen usage. She says that you should tell the developmental pediatrician about the behavior and changes they’ve witnessed. It’s common for doctors to ask parents and children questions to learn more, too.

More Alarming Facts About Screen Dependency Disorder

Research related to SDD continues over the years, but startling discoveries have already been made. Dr. Sigman reports that children with SDD can have differences and abnormalities in gray and white brain matter. These findings are based on comparisons to children without SDD.

Avelino-Tandoc backs up these findings and says brain damage is a long-term consequence of Screen Dependency Disorder. The brains of young children can be highly affected in these negative ways:

  • Poor impulse control
  • Difficulty planning, organizing, and prioritizing
  • Poor development of empathy and compassion
  • Difficulty processing information
  • Reduced task performance

How You Can Avoid Screen Dependency Disorder

Despite these alarming facts, Avelino-Tandoc makes it clear that children don’t have to suffer. She says that screen-related gadgets can be truly helpful tools. They are good for learning, entertainment, research, and more. Children should have access to screens, but moderation is extremely important.

You must be proactive when it comes to their children’s screen time. Balancing screen usage with hands-on learning, social development, and physical development is crucial. Fortunately, there are many things parents can do to create a healthy balance.

You can draw and create art with their kids versus using a tablet and stylus. Instead of playing digital games, parents can offer toys like building blocks and similar materials. These are just a few examples of finding non-screen related alternatives.

One of the most important things for you to do is ensure that children spend time with peers. Avelino-Tandoc says to encourage face-to-face playtime outdoors to help children make eye contact and express themselves. In addition to building social skills, this helps develop creativity and fine motor skills.

We know it can be difficult for you to manage the screen usage of children. But keep in mind that it is 100% possible to do. Your child will thrive with the proper balance of screen time and real-world engagement.

How much screen time do you think is appropriate for children? Let us know in the comments and send this article to other parents you know to let them in on the discussion!

Our content is created to the best of our knowledge, yet it is of general nature and cannot in any way substitute an individual consultation by your doctor. Your health is important to us!