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Screen Time Makes My Kids Crazy. Seriously.

Once upon a time, I had a baby – a single baby. I also thought I would do everything perfect.  I vowed to never let the TV babysit my child; hell, I vowed she wouldn’t watch TV until after 2 years old.

Then I became pregnant with baby #2.  My first was 15 months old.  It was a slippery slope, folks.

Let’s fast forward 6 years and 2 more babies – that’s right, four babies total.  We have two large ‘Smart’ TV’s, 3 iPads, LeapPads, iPhones, and countless other technologically advanced pieces of crap in our home.  They are babysitters, educational tools, road trip companions, boredom busters… the list goes on.  My 2 year old can swipe a screen in embarrassing speed.

I have noticed the crumbling effect these devices have on our daily lives though.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to lock them away – a mother needs a sanity break each day, and these ‘things’ provide just that.  Well, kind of…  You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

 

childish tantrums, tears and hysterics

 

If any type of blue light device is turned on, my boys become monsters.  Not right away, and not as they are blinded by the crap that is being displayed in front of them, but once the device has been shut off or physically pried from their fingertips.  That is the moment shit hits the fan. Our day goes downhill quickly.

It’s as if these screens switch something in the brain, causing my boys (and occasionally my daughter) to lose themselves.  They are cranky, easily disgruntled, quick to argue or complain, extremely emotional, and all around different than before being exposed to the screens.

I know I am not alone on this one.

 

tv

 

While the screens make for a great babysitter <insert laundry time, toilet scrubbing, a quickie with the husband here>  the aftermath is maddening.  I become a horrible mother because I am feeding off of their emotional meltdowns.  I crave a glass of wine and envision running away from home.  All because of these screens that are supposed to be wonderful.

So, being that I am a researcher, I started digging.  It’s all pretty science-y but damn well common sense.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the screens are effecting our children (and us!).

 

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The Science of Blue Light Screens

Did you know that American children being exposed to AN AVERAGE of SEVEN HOURS of screen time a day?  I am not kidding.  (And why would I kid? I’ve had plenty of ‘movie days’ with my tribe.)

For decades the American Academy of Pediatrics has pushed for children to have less screen time, but the hours have only increased.  There is a large problem with children being able to recognize true (real life) human emotions when they spend time in front of a screen.

Last year, Psychology Today reported that blue light screen time is directly linked to children be chronically irritable, depressed, prone to rages,  and are constantly agitated and exhausted.  While these kids are easily diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and are offered medication, it could be directly linked to their time in front of screens – TV’s, Pads, and phones.

 

tv1

 

Research shows that:

Screen time induces stress reactions.

Screen time disrupts sleep and desynchronizes the body clock (link is external)

Screen time desensitizes the brain’s reward system.

Screen time overloads the sensory system (link is external), fractures attention (link is external), and depletes mental reserves

Screen-time reduces physical activity levels and exposure to “green time”  (Outside nature play)

Screen time can effect cognitive development.

Read more at Psychology Today.

Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, says that young children can be addicted and over-exposed to screens and this can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. If introduced and constantly exposed to too much screen time at a young age, Dr. Sigman says, that the screens are “the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.”

 

Boy and girl wathing cartoons on the notebook

 

What am I going to do? What can you do?

Harvard has produced a ‘cheat sheet’ if you will; a pamphlet that gives you all the tools to help limit your children’s screen time.  There are great ideas in it; a few that I will be utilizing:

  • Music on in the background from morning until night.
  • Technology will be used for guided meditation and exercise programs for the kids.
  • There will never be a TV in any of our bedrooms.
  • Parental controls for the iPads to automatically shut it down after a period of time.
  • TV Timer Bob for the TV’s sounds like a great investment.

I plan to do a two week (Maybe I’ll see how a week goes first….) of zero-screens.  Obviously, I am tied to a computer for work, but that would be it.  The TV’s would be unplugged; the iPads and LeapPads put up; and the smart phones set with a new password.  I feel like the initial detox could be bad (BAD BAD BAD), but then everyone should level off.

Hopefully.

If not, I may drown in wine.

 

wine glasses

 

Resources:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bright-screens-could-delay-bedtime/

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/09/keeping-an-eye-on-screen-time/

 

 

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