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Screen-time
First Years Oct 28, 2019
5 Minutes

Ask the expert(s): how to use screen-time in a positive way

We know ADHD is on the rise in kids. We also know screen-time is massively on the rise. For all of us.

Is there a connection? How, as parents do we realistically manage this new paradigm? It is almost impossible to avoid altogether.

We ask the experts….

Screens are really tough to avoid. So how do we manage it in a positive way?

We are not a ‘parenting’ resource. We believe parenting styles are up to the individual. However, we are all about how parents can influence the health of their little people.

This is where ‘screen-time’ comes in.

Luckily for us, we also have a board of expert advisors. On hand to give their view on exactly these types of modern day issue. In this case we have called on leading US paediatrician Dr Mona Amin and our resident expert in childhood-based disorders psychotherapist Christophe Sauerwein. 

So, asking the experts. Screen-time: as modern parents – how do we handle it?

Screen-time

Taking a step back. It is worth understanding how screen-time can impact a child’s developing brain. Once we understand this, we can try and manage it in a healthy and positive way.

Christophe’s view is that ADHD is on the rise. Both a combination of more diagnosis and more of it. He points to around 10-15% of children now being impacted. He also notes that there are many causes. However, misuse of screens can be a contributing factor. Click here for more. 

The big question is: what is ‘misuse’?

For him, it is a simple case of too much, too early.

To give an illustration. Recent research highlighted that 48% of children with ADHD reported 2hrs or more of screen time on an average school day. Clearly that is quite a lot….

The issue, Christophe says, is that screens in excess can cause what is known as: ‘Hyperarousal’.

The more technical term associated with screens and ADHD is ‘the fast-pace arousal-habitual hypothesis’.

What on earth is that?!

In a nutshell, one of the ways that screens impact children is the fact that fast-paced media forces children to repeatedly shift their attention. To renew their orienting responses. Doing this over and over, over a prolonged period of time again increases ‘arousal’.

That high state of arousal if repeated over many, many times becomes the new ‘normal’ state. Once you step away from that, then children can seek to recreate this hyperarousal state. Which is where ADHD behaviour can come in.

Think of it this way. As an adult, how do you feel when you have been watching an intense programme on TV or been engrossed on something on your phone/iPad? Once you step away it can take a second to readjust. For a developing brain the impact can be more marked…

Dr Mona says that for a young child, the period following prolonged screen time causes a delay in cognitive processing skills. So for that immediate period after spending time in front of a screen they are not really getting that input. Certainly not as clearly as they would had there been no screen.

So how do we use screens in a positive way?

Whether we like it or not. Technology is now part of our lives. It is pretty unrealistic to suggest children are not exposed at all these days.

So, the best thing to do is to manage it in an appropriate way for a developing brain. On our recent podcast with paediatrician Dr Mona (click here for more). We discussed exactly this. We talked to her about what she recommends to her patients:

Dr Mona on how to manage screen-time:

Click here to listen to our podcast. However here are the key take-aways:

Ultimately a child needs to be engaged as much as they can outside of a device. It is ok to incorporate if you have had other activities through the day. There is a time that it is ok for a screen.

The trouble comes when there is more screen-time than human interaction. That has a huge impact on a child’s neurological development. Particularly in the first four years of life. 

Screen-time together:

A healthier way to do it is if you are watching something together. An example would be watching something whether it be TV or an iPad. Ask your child questions about what they are seeing. Make it interactive.

Dr Mona argues that making it a point of learning and a social activity can definitely be more positive. Obviously for younger children (below 2) it can be a bit more challenging. Another reason that for a younger child it is better to use as sparingly as possible.

Boundaries:

If you are using screen-time for a younger child, using it sparingly is key. Setting boundaries and ensuring you are prioritising far more human to human interaction. Using screen for 15 minutes a day, when you do the dishes etc is a good example of a boundary. Allowing this time and then enforcing a boundary is a positive way to do it.

When it comes to health boundaries, everyone in the family needs to be on board with it and enforce the boundaries. If you can do that then it can turn into a positive thing.

Older kids and screens:

Coming back to Christophe’s point on age. Dr Mona agrees. The younger a child is the less they should have. From 5yrs and upwards Dr Mona believes when used in a controlled way screens and technology can be used in a positive, healthy and learning based way.

Pretty sensible really!

For more from Dr Mona check out @pedsdoctalk on Instagram. For more on ADHD specifically (including other factors) from Christophe. Click here. 

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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

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