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Is Screen Time Damaging Your Child's Brain?

March 04, 2019
By Beverley Furrow, WCCS Educational Therapist & EXCEL Teacher
Beverley Furrow
Beverley Furrow, WCCS Educational
Therapist & EXCEL Teacher

A couple of weeks ago, WCCS had the privilege of hosting the first annual Educational Therapists of the Carolinas mini-conference. Some of our speakers shared some great information about how to understand the 21st century learner and become more aware of some of the negative effects technology and social media can have on a student’s brain development.

 

At WCCS, we understand that there are many benefits to using technology appropriately in the classroom, and even believe that it can be used to connect with and reach others for Christ. However, there is powerful research showing that it must be effectively monitored and balanced with more traditional forms of learning - such as reading and having meaningful interactions with teachers. This week, we have asked WCCS Educational Therapist and EXCEL Teacher, Beverley Furrow, to share some insight from conference speaker, Dawn Poulterer Woods to help us all understand and guide our 21st century learners more effectively in school and at home.

  • The Negative Impact Screen Time Has on Executive Functioning of the Brain: research has shown that social media and gaming are impacting children and adolescent brain development, particularly in the way of executive functioning – this is the area responsible for enabling your student to plan, organize and complete tasks. It is also responsible for regulating emotions and self-monitoring. The part of the brain that houses executive functioning is the frontal lobe, the same part of the brain that is the last to fully develop.  When students attempt homework or other cognitive functions while also texting, snap chatting, or multi-tasking with other screen functions, the frontal lobe does not activate properly.  Excessive screen time can also lead to Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS), causing your student to have issues with mood, focus, sleep and behavior. Physicians are having an increasingly difficult time distinguishing between ADHD and ESS because the symptoms of each are so similar. Another interesting fact that researchers are discovering is that the smaller the screen size, the greater negative effect the screen activity has on the brain.

  • Cognitive Offloading: in today’s world, students literally have the world at their fingertips. This is advantageous in that they can explore and research topics quickly, however the ease to which students can retrieve facts from the internet can also inhibit their ability to think deeply on a topic and rely on memory and deep research rather than a search bar. The brain is a muscle and the less it has to work to retrieve information, the weaker and less skilled it will become at learning and performing.

  • The Dopamine Effect: The types of activities that are performed on screens release dopamine.  Dopamine is a chemical that is released into the brain and causes pleasure and arousal.  This dopamine effect is what produces addictions, including social media and gaming.  Research has shown that addictions formed during the teenage years are the hardest to break and can lead to a lifetime of future addiction problems. It is shocking to think that addiction to screen time has become so common among today’s youth that many are being sent to rehabilitation facilitates to regain freedom from these devices. Even if your child never has to go to a rehab facility, consider the effects technology addiction might be having on his or her ability to establish authentic relationships with their peers, teachers and siblings as well as the ability to develop effective communication skills.

Technology in the Classroom
Technology can be used to enhance the
classroom experience if monitored carefully.

Understanding the nature of how students have been created by God physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally, is essential in successfully educating the 21st century learner.  As part of God’s intelligent design, developmental stages and readiness must be incorporated into the methods used for teaching and guiding today’s students. The point is not that all things related to screen time are bad.  As in all things, the key is moderation.  The activities of reading, daydreaming, unstructured play, and encouraging imagination seem a part of the past. Rekindling these skills is essential for today’s students and would bring about a healthier developmental environment for the 21st century learner.

Below are some tips for maintaining proper “screen health” for your 21st century learner.

  • Talk to your child or teen about the dangers of overuse of technology.

  • Delay smartphone and tablet use for young kids as long as possible.

  • Remove all smartphones from your child’s homework area.

  • Monitor the content and number of hours your child spends on social media throughout the week and set limits.

  • Have “screen-free zones” such as the dinner table, the morning and afternoon drive home, your student’s bedroom, etc.

  • For young kids, stop by the park on the way home from school and encourage physical, outdoor play with siblings or friends.

  • For adolescents, encourage participation in athletic teams, hobbies or service clubs after school.

Your student needs your help navigating the world of technology and social media in a Christ-honoring way. Their brains are simply not cognitively mature enough to resist the many temptations, pressures and distraction that smartphones and other technology devices pose. As Christian educators, we want to partner with you in sharing helpful information on this growing topic of discussion. For more resources on this topic, visit www.familiesmanagingmedia.com.

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