Upon a quick survey in the world around us you will see adults, teenagers, and kids buried in their phones, tablets, and laptops. Technology has totally changed the way we see the world and our ability to access information quickly. This is not another article talking about the evil of social media, countless apps, and hours in front of a screen because frankly I do not believe that is true. Technology still as a whole, has been an incredible blessing for us we literally have the world in our finger tips or in our pockets. This is written to bring some more concerns to light that you should consider, before using your phone to keep your child quiet at dinner.
It is hopefully of no surprise that more and more children and adults are being diagnosed with neurologic based issues from ADHD, sensory processing, anxiety, depression, and more. Each year these numbers become more and more greater, but no one seems to bat an eye. After all there is an easy “fix”, pop a pill, and move on. This is also not a bash on the pharmaceutical companies either, because in fact these drugs save hundreds if not thousands of lives each year. However, they are not fixing anything neurologically they are just putting a patch on a larger problem. Imagine that you broke your leg and all you were given was a band aid. This is exactly what is going on, and although it sounds much more extreme, in all reality it is probably the exact opposite. I was speaking with a man the other day describing neurologic based therapies, and stated “the brain controls everything.” The man simply replied “well duh everybody knows that,” and my rebuttal was, “well why does a majority of healthcare forget to address it so much of the time?” The fact is as a population we are sicker then ever but have access to some of the highest technology health care in the entire world. One issue that needs to be addressed is technology.
First concern that has begun to take ground better is the issue with blue light. For those of you that do not know what that is, blue light is a wavelength of light that is emitted by most forms of technology or light bulbs, and can potentially be hazardous to our health. Blue light is a stimulatory form of light because it releases something in our brain called dopamine, and also shuts off another part that is responsible to secrete something called melatonin. Dopamine is an excitatory hormone and melatonin is the opposite, what this means is technology before bed is not going to be a good idea for any of us. Since the creation of the light bulb our days have been extended into the evenings because we are now able to see even after it is dark. But our recent ancestors did not have this pleasure and our brains still are not evolved for this, and our sleep wake cycles are left askew. One hack that may be beneficial to help your sleep cycle (because most people still are not going to go to bed just because its dark) is to utilize “night mode” on your devices, or download f.lux™ an app to help dampen blue light, and do not turn on any extra lights in your home that are not needed. Do not fall under the impression that blue light is evil, because it is also important in regulating our wake cycle and making us more alert. The biggest concern is the amount or dosage that we are receiving, especially with the rise of LED lighting. The best thing you can do for yourself and your child is limit technology and light as much as possible 1-2 hours before bed. Also consider utilizing blue light blocking glasses to help your body wind down in the evening, they can be an inexpensive extra tool to add as well.
Shown above is the rise of ADHD (aged 5-17) in the past 20 years or so taken directly from the CDC website. If you look closely there is a very steep rise around 2009-2011 for some of the cohorts, with a minor fall after. One of the most significant things that happened technology wise was the release of the Ipad in 2010. Now, this is pure speculation and correlation with certainly no causation, but interesting to see the potential influence these technologies have on our kids. Although technology is a blessing for many things, it can be potentially detrimental in healthy development of our children for many reasons.
- Nearly all stimulus that comes into our brain is from our muscles and joint receptors. This means that total brain growth and development is based largely on how much we move, especially when we are younger.
- The area of our brain called our frontal lobe is one of our most important assets in decision making and defining who we are as a person is largely inhibited while using technology, especially video game style technology.
- Building a strong brain also means an equal brain side to side. The left side of our brain is more based in short term reward reinforcement, and it is tapped into with video games, and Facebook scrolling to keep your eyes fixed and wanting more. Right brain is largely weak in ADHD and other attention based issues in kids, and is more based in long term reward reinforcement. This can be one of the explanations when parents are shocked that they cannot have their kids focus at a family meal for more then 10 minutes, but are able to play video games for hours and hours.
These are some of the most crucial but certainly not an exhaustive list help emphasize the importance of controlling your kids screen times for proper development especially if they are starting to show any kind of issues in temperament, attention, etc. Understand that although technology is a blessing it was never designed to be a baby sitter to keep your child quiet all day long, and needs to be limited for their own health. I remember back to when I was a kid getting incredibly upset with my parents when they limited my screen time, but persistently I was limited to my allotment for the day. This was a time before all of the new cool technologies we have today, so it is going to be an uphill battle, but will be beneficial for your entire family. One thing that will always be constant and beneficial for your child is something called gravity, and I am sure you have heard of it. Gravity has been proclaimed as the one thing that will forever be constant no matter the circumstance, and it is highly beneficial for us all.
In closing, monitor your blue light intake especially 1-2 hours before bed and watch in amazement as you and your family wake up in the morning feeling more rested then you have felt in years. Also limit screen time, and this goes for just about everyone especially the kiddos with developing brains. Less time on the screen will give you more time to grow as a family, and connect. Although the fight will not be easy, understand it is a gift you are giving to your child and one day they will realize it.