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Children at risk for developing screen addiction, experts say

Posted July 22, 2015

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— Everywhere you look, people are plugged in and tuned out. Researchers say all the technology – cellphones, video games, computers and TVs – can take a toll, especially on teenagers, who are at risk for developing a screen addiction.

Child therapist Dr. Kristen Wynns, of Wynns Family Psychology in Cary, says the problem starts much earlier than the teen years.

"These days, kids have a huge buffet of options. Even little kids typically have their devices that they can game on in the car, so it really starts at a pretty young age,” she said.

Amanda Nevins doesn’t allow her daughters to use an iPad or iPhone and says they are “often times the only ones playing outside.” Andi Clark, who has a toddler, says she understands the appeal of putting a child in front of a TV.

“I get it. To be able to say, ‘I just need a couple of minutes. Here, watch Sesame Street, or here's a game, or here's a computer, play on that for a little bit,’” she said.

Experts say that's how it starts.

"It just becomes a vicious cycle. The screens have so much stimulation that kids can get sucked in,” Wynns said.

Wynns has several young clients she's treating for screen addiction – some with such intense issues that she didn't feel comfortable allowing them on camera for WRAL News’ story.

"We're seeing that kids could have behavior problems. They could be really irritable or aggressive if parents try to reign in their use,” she said.

Wynns suggests putting children on a media diet. Daily screen time should not exceed three hours, and toddlers should not be parked in front a TV screen. Some experts say children under the age of two should not be exposed to any electronic media.

She also says parents should avoid screen time for kids during car rides. The car will be quiet because they are distracted, but it's not what they need. Wynn says parents need to unplug as well and cut back on their own screen time.

A national study by the Kaiser Foundation found kids between ages eight and 18 spend about 7.5 hours a day looking at different forms of media. If you think your child has an issue with screen addiction, it's important that you seek out the help of a physician. Experts also suggest trying a screen "detox" and make your child go electronic free for a few weeks.

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  • Wendy Banner Jul 23, 2015
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    This goes into a little more depth. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/tv-watching-is-linked-to-brain-changes-in-kids/2013/12/06/a778d002-5d16-11e3-bc56-c6ca94801fac_story.html

  • Greg Griffin Jul 23, 2015
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    View quoted thread


    Kids do indeed "learn a lot through those screens." They learn how to cyberbully and waste time online. They learn the lyrics of music that is violent and that degrades women. They learn how to not interact face-to-face with their peers. They read a lot of propaganda and they play a lot of video games.

    Addiction to technology is here, not on its way, and it affects adults as well as children. It doesn't take an "expert" to figure that out.

  • Sean Creasy Jul 23, 2015
    user avatar

    Einstein said it best" as humans' dependence on technology increases the intelligence level will go down." Make them read at least two books a week and also do more out door activities where phones and computers are not allowed or future generations are going to suffer...

  • Paul Jones Jul 23, 2015
    user avatar

    What a joke. Would a kid that went fishing every day need to see a doctor? Growing up, my son was "addicted" to video games, but he'd step away if there was something more interesting to do. Now, he's past that age and has no interest in video games. But the experience was actually good for him. He's an excellent typist now.

    Problem with these studies is the assumption that using a screen 8 hours a day is horrible. Many adults have jobs doing that. Shall they seek help, too.

    Kids actually learn a lot through those screens. These adults need to understand that.