School-aged children’s screen time
Experts warn that school-aged children’s screen usage should be limited. Some parents are concerned while others are unconcerned about how much time their children spend in front of computers and mobile devices. As more research into how computers affect our mental health is undertaken, it becomes clear that youngsters aren’t the only ones who are affected by being glued to screens for long periods of time.
Here is some of the evidence to back up the claim that screen time for people of all ages should be reduced.
A study on smartphone addiction took place in Korea that measured the level of anxiety produced when teenagers were deprived of their smartphones. The participants experienced physical symptoms of anxiety
when their phones were removed from their person and they could hear the associated alert sounds indicating that a call or text was coming in. The symptoms included elevated heart rate and blood pressure, restlessness, and decreased attention span.
Numerous other studies have been conducted which reveal that the heart rate speeds up and blood pressure rises each time we are alerted by our phones that a call, text, email, or private message has come in. This is a physiological response known as “fight or flight” which puts our body into a heightened neurological state.
It is known that when our nervous system goes into “fight or flight” mode, our breathing becomes shallow, our heart rate speeds up, and digestive and reproductive functions take a back seat to more urgent concerns. This is a primal reaction that has to do with survival. When faced with danger in the natural environment, our body must be ready to react quickly, and either defend against the danger or flee.
In fight or flight, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are secreted. We know that over time when we have too-high levels of these stress hormones in our blood, we experience reduced cognitive function. This includes the ability to absorb and retain new information, as well as the ability to recall information.
Another fact of too much computer use is that we tend to remain isolated in the same posture for extended periods of time when we’re typing on a computer or using our smartphones. We may slouch in our computer seats, crane our necks and squint to view the screen or contort our bodies in uncomfortable positions while seated or lying down and using our smartphones.
Remaining in one position for a long time reduces overall blood flow to the extremities of the body, and this includes the brain. Studies of the brain also reveal that the more we “exercise” various parts of the brain by engaging them actively, the more neural pathways we develop and the bigger our brain grows. However, “use it or lose it” applies to the brain as well. If we are devoting all of our waking hours to viewing computer screens rather than engaging fully in an array of physical and sensory indulgences, we are likely to reduce function in the parts of our brain that are not getting a regular workout.
So once we examine the relationship between smartphone and computer use, and begin to understand how our brain chemistry changes as a result of being exposed to technology on a daily basis, we can begin to see that limiting screen time is a great way to support healthy brain function.