Children at risk for developing screen addiction, experts say
Posted July 22, 2015
Cary, N.C. — 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.