If you’re reading this, then you’re in the age of technology, with the many benefits it brings we are blessed. But also I hope to shed light on the research and hopefully we can warn you of the risks and how to help your child or yourself. According to Dr. James Byland’s presentation, “Technology Addiction, Assessment and Treatment” in 2019, 97% of American children between the ages of 12-17 play video games, 80% of teens check their phones once per hour, and the Kaiser Family Foundation (2010) it’s estimated children between 8 to 18 spend 7.5 hours on their screens per day! And that doesn’t include the average 1.5 hours of texting or talking on the smartphone per day.
You or your teen may ask, “what’s the harm?” Technology is designed to give immediate gratification, to be irresistible, and address deep psychological needs for connection in the short term. This can harm the brain and social, emotional, and mental life in the long term if left unmoderated. Screens activate reward circuits in the brain, which dull over time, needing longer or more intense stimulation to achieve the same response. Sound familiar? Many physical and behavioral compulsions seem to start the same way. “Excitement” in screen time can be giving small amounts of cortisol or the “stress hormone” to the brain, which leads to greater irritability and chronic stress over time (Byland 2019).
Dr. Dunckley suggests the “Reset Solution” to rebalance the brain’s neural chemistry. This approach, along with clear communication as to the reasons and risks with whom you’re helping, includes 3-6 weeks of no screen time at all, slowly tapering off if aggression is noticed, and establishing new healthy habits like spending time in nature, with family, hobbies, reading, playing, prayer, etc. I believe this is extremely prevalent and needed amongst the generation that has grown up only knowing smartphones, and is something any parent can do. Look into the work mentioned here, seek professional guidance if necessary, and don’t try it alone, go in with backup of a partner, family, or friends. I hope this helps, and wish you the best, it can and has been done.