There is more and more research suggesting that too much screen time is impacting kids’ brain development. I’m not against all screen time but we must create media-safe homes that monitor the amount of screen time for kids, especially young kids.
Screens Negatively Impacting Kids’ Brains Fueling ADHD Epidemic: Experts
New research links excessive technology use to rising attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rates.
Screen: ‘Main Culprit’ Behind ADHD
“The developing mind is designed to attach to the most relevant stimuli,” Roger McFillin, a clinical psychologist board-certified in behavioral and cognitive psychology, told The Epoch Times.
Screens overly stimulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which are important for mental health, he added, noting that dysregulation of these pathways can lead to disorders such as ADHD and developmental delays.
Screen time is “the main culprit” behind the skyrocketing rates of ADHD, according to Dr. Victoria Dunckley, a child psychiatrist and expert on the effects of screen time on children’s nervous systems.
After six weeks, electroencephalogram scans showed that the screen-exposed kids had brain patterns similar to those with ADHD.
Additionally, in a 2023 meta-analysis reviewing nine studies of a total of more than 81,000 kids, researchers found that excessive screen exposure may significantly contribute to the development of ADHD in children. “Therefore,” the authors wrote, “it is necessary to reduce screen time per day in children to prevent the occurrence of ADHD.”
Brains ‘Short-Circuited’ By Screens
Interactive screen time, which includes social media and games on a tablet or phone, is particularly stimulating to the brain, Dr. Dunckley told The Epoch Times.
“It repeatedly puts the nervous system into a state of fight or flight without the benefit of discharging that energy,” she said. When hyper-arousal happens on a regular basis, the brain’s frontal lobe is effectively “short-circuited.”
When this happens to the frontal lobe, which controls emotion, motivation, and attention, kids may become impulsive, restless, aggressive, or even depressed.
The research on the effect of interactive screens on young children’s brains is limited. However, some studies suggest that the content form matters more than the screen time itself. “Weak narrative, fast pace and editing, complex stimuli, or stimuli too different from reality, can make it difficult for the child to extract or generalize information,” one review notes.
Too Quick to Medicate?
The link between screens and poor mental health has become increasingly apparent over the past decade. Most treatment focuses on pharmaceuticals. In 2021, 8 percent of U.S. children ages 5 to 17 were prescribed medications for mental health issues, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For many conditions, lifestyle changes such as reducing screen time could prompt improvement, Mr. McFillin said.
“I often get referred kids who have complex histories and/or treatment-resistant, and the first thing I start with is a screen fast,” Dr. Dunckley said. This critical first step frequently leads to better academic performance, mood, sleep, and sociability—even if it doesn’t solve the problem entirely.
“Despite the fact that we’re immersed in a digital culture, we need to work with brain physiology and developmental needs, not against it,” Dr. Dunckley said.
This article first appeared here.