Smartphones and Our Children’s Brains


BY CAROLE RICHARDS

 

I grew up in an era where everyone had one landline in their home without even voicemail.  We all survived and communicated often in person or by phone.

Today we communicate by text, voicemail, email, Twitter, Facetime and much more.  However, social interaction is missing.  These handy gadgets eliminate the need to talk in person and our children are not learning to socialize.  And socialization is an important skill in the workplace.

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The Long-Term Effects of Smartphones

In addition, research shows that our children are being programmed to become addicted to their devices.  Recently on 60 minutes, Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager said, “That phone in your pocket is like a slot machine. Every time you check it, you’re pulling the lever to see if you get a reward.”

A 2015 study by the nonprofit group Common Sense Media revealed that the average adolescent spends nine hours a day on media – more time than they spend with their parents.

And, smartphone screens may be changing the way the brains work.  Dr. Victoria Dunckley, an integrative psychiatrist in Los Angeles, says screen time could be leading to “sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyperaroused nervous system,” or what she calls “electronic screen syndrome.”

 

Anxiety, Obesity, and Depression

teens-smartphones

I’ve worked with children for more than forty years.  In the last ten years, I have seen many children and adolescents diagnosed with anxiety.   A 2016 study in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders Association of America found social media could be linked with increased depression.

The smartphone screen’s blue light may stop our brains from producing melatonin.  This can increase distraction, create sleep problems and increase the risk for obesity.

How to Save Your Children

So what does a parent do?  We can’t throw away all the smartphones.  They are everywhere.  However, does an eight year old really need a smartphone?  You know where your child is: in school, at an activity, with a friend or at home.  You can reach them.

Does your ten to twelve year old need their own phone?  They will certainly insist that they do.  However if they don’t have a phone, it may eliminate social media stress and bullying problems.

You might think you are holding your child back from learning the new technology.  I promise you they will figure it out and very fast.

A Distraction-Free Summer

At our Academic Fun & Fitness Camp, we do not permit any electronic devices.  Kids are free from that distraction for 7 ½ hours each day for six weeks.  And, they are happily surviving.

Academic Fun & Fitness Camp 2017

How Much Technology is Too Much?

I know smartphone technology is here to stay and will continue to advance.  However, as a parent, consider carefully how soon you need to expose your child.  And, once they have a phone, how much time they are allowed to use it.  Their brains may depend upon your setting boundaries.  And, back to socialization … our kids need to talk with each other, not just communicate via their technology.  Our workforce depends on it.


Carole Richards is president of North Coast Tutoring Services, president/director of the Academic Fun & Fitness Camp at Lakeland Community College, and author of Richards Learning Systems®.  She is a frequent guest on radio and TV.  She can be reached at caroler@northcoasted.org

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About the Author

Nikki

Nikki is the Director of Student Services for North Coast Education Services. She coordinates the tutoring for all private students, assists with in-school programs, and is responsible for the NCES blog. Nikki is also the Assistant Camp Director of the Academic Fun & Fitness Camp, a summer program for students with learning disabilities in Kirtland, OH.