Screen Time and Your Child’s Brain

Screen Time and Your Child’s Brain  
A study out of Duke University several years ago concluded that focused attention is the number one predictor of success in school. Kids who showed the ability to focus in first grade had better outcomes in fifth grade and even higher rates of graduating high school than their peers who showed attention difficulties in first grade. The information given in this article came from the book, Glow Kids, by Nicholas Kardaras. Dopamine levels are raised in the brain according to our activities.

  • Eating cake raises dopamine levels by 50%
  • Sex by 100%
  • Snorting Cocaine by 350%
  • Crystal Meth by 1200%

Technology is like a digital drug. A kid’s brain on tech looks like a brain on drugs. A study in 1998 showed that video games increased dopamine by about 100%. Video games today are even more interactive and stimulating. Brain-imaging research is showing that glowing screens-like those of iPads-are stimulating to the brain’s pleasure center. What are the implications of this level of dopamine arousal in children?


“Gaming companies will hire the best neurobiologists and neuroscientists to hook up electrodes to the test-gamer.  If they don’t elicit the blood pressure that they shoot for-typically 180 over 120 or 140 within a few minutes of playing, and if they don’t show sweating and an increase in their galvanic skin responses, they go back and tweak the game to get the maximum addicting and grounding response that they are looking for.” 

“There’s a reason that the most tech cautious parents are tech designers and engineers. Steve Jobs was a notoriously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives enroll their kids in no-tech Waldorf Schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.” 

Socially, technology makes us feel a sense of pseudo connection. Instant access to peer culture is never a good thing. You wouldn’t let a boy in your daughter’s room by themselves all evening and into the night, but with a phone that is what is happening. Emotionally, rates of depression have skyrocketed as well as suicide rates. The use of more and more technology equals to less physical movement and exercise.

Things for Parents to Consider

  • It starts with you.  What example do you set on how much and when you use technology? We all have room to grow!
  • What limits do you need to set for your family?
  • If you do need to scale back on technology time, be sure to replace it with something meaningful.  There will be a withdrawal period if it has become an addiction.
  • Your relationship with your child is your power to parent.  The stronger your relationship, the more power you hold to teach and guide them well.

Mrs. Diane Rowton, Tanglewood Counselor

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