When we heard the term addiction, the very first things that come to the mind are drugs, alcohol, and sex addictions. Of course, they are the ones that have the greatest exposure and are the most pervasive ones, but we know there are many other addictions as well. One you may not be aware of is screen addiction. Yes, screen addiction is an uncontrollable need to stare at screens for most of the time available. It may sound silly, but you probably will not be laughing by the time you finish reading this piece of writing. This addiction can deteriorate to the point of finding treatment help at an addiction recovery center.
Screen addictions cover a plethora of issues. Television, computers, iPads, Smartphones, and the list goes on and on. People are at risk of forming addictions similar to those of drug and alcohol addictions because the production of dopamine, the brain’s pleasure chemical, increases rapidly during screen time. And who can deny that watching TV or being on the internet and being captivated by all the information and images thrown at you will trigger pleasure chemicals in the brain. This has been seen in gaming addictions an it also includes gambling.
The average child from age ten to eleven spends 6.1 hours daily looking at one screen at home, where the average is about five screens available. By the age of seven, the average child born today will have spent a dramatic portion of his life in front of a screen. One thing to remember is today’s growing forms of media, which unlike the recent past, a child can move from TV, to a handheld game, and then to a smart-phone screen. There is more access hence more mediums in becoming addicted. Another concern, of course, is the long-term effect of such a length of exposure on the development of the brain.
Interestingly, a recent study by the Council for Research Excellence discovered the greatest screen time occurs in the 45-54 age range. Streaming videos, computers at work and home, emails, smartphones, online research, and television consume nearly 10 hours a day for this age demographic. Certainly, this can have some possible benefits. Since research time is reduced, productivity may increase significantly. That means more output for the same dollars to an employer. Watching your favorite show online or recorded means you don’t need to rush home to see your favorite show. The Smartphone has the ability to handle your email, so you can communicate while traveling.
So, what’s the downside? The longer you remain in a sedentary state, the fewer calories you burn. This leads to a multitude of problems like obesity, high blood pressure, depression and isolation from friends and family. Socially, you may become a recluse person over time!
Establishing boundaries for screen time may be critical to proper development of the brain, social skills, and general health. Since there is little hard data at this time, maybe it’s best to play it safe, especially with kids, and limit screen time to an hour or two a day. Let them find a new way to have fun outdoors, playing ball, running around, and staying healthy, which is a more novel approach indeed.