No parent intentionally allows harm to come to their children. No parent willfully neglects their offspring…but their ignorance can cause irreversible changes that affect kids’ brains. Parents can control those changes. Namely, are you managing your kids’ use of electronic devices?
Well-documented research demonstrates that when kids are exposed to extensive use of smart phones, tablets, computer internet, social media, video games, TV and other electronics, their developing brains are short-circuited, sometimes permanently. Certainly, that isn’t something you would purposely allow.
Disconnected: How to Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Kids documents the research of Thomas Kersting, a high school counselor and therapist. Starting in 2009, his committee began receiving referrals for students newly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Actual ADHD is usually diagnosed in children beginning at age five with the average age of diagnosis being eight years old. But these were teen agers never diagnosed until high school. Something had changed the pattern and Kersting wanted to find out why. Long story short, he found that when the human brain is stimulated by technology, certain circuits are excited, while others are neglected and weaken. Kids’ brains are still developing and are particularly sensitive to modern technology, but with detrimental effects.
Neuroplasticity is a term that means the brain can undergo changes, leaving established circuits behind and making new ones according to the length of time and kind of format they’re exposed to by electronic stimulation. The changes are reflected as inattentiveness, lack of focus and disorganization, all symptoms of ADHD. With that kind of brain stimulation, kids are less likely to deal with complex information and analysis of it. The old adage applies: “Use it or lose it.”
When Kersting read the elementary and middle school records of the students newly diagnosed with ADHD in his high school, he found no references to ADHD symptoms or behavior. Yet, now these same students were being put on ADHD medications to treat their symptoms!
Rather than doing a book review here, I suggest you read Kersting’s book. It’s available in print and e-book formats and is well worth the read. It behooves you to become well acquainted with the effects of electronic media on your kids’ brains, so you have good answers for them when you regulate the use of their phones, computers and other devices they use.
Dr. Mari Swingle, a practicing psychologist and neurofeedback practitioner in Vancouver, BC, has done extensive studies on the effect of electronic media on the human brain, especially of children. She, too, identifies the negative effects of prolonged brain stimulation on the development of healthy and necessary neural circuits in kids’ developing brains. While her book is more technical in content, it is very readable and enlightening. It, too, is available as a Kindle download.
A recent publication, Prowess: The Man You Were Meant To Be by Chuck Holton is aimed at addicted boys over the age of 13 who are enslaved to wasting time at home playing video games and other electronic amusement. Holton challenges his readers to become real men, pull themselves up by the bootstraps and off the couch to do things for others. Parents can read the first chapter of his book free at: www.lifezette.com/2019/11/letter-to-young-gamer-other-humans/?utm_source=activeengage&utm_medium=email.
None of the authors are against electronics, but they strongly advocate that their use be limited to a few hours a day during students’ developmental years–that extend into young adulthood! Smart phones should be charged in a place other than kids’ bedrooms, so users are not tempted to go online after parents believe they’re asleep. Parents should put controls on what their kids can access on their smart phones and computers, too. More and more young people look at pornography, which is addictive and contaminates their right appraisal of sexuality, as well as forming harmful neural circuits in the brain.
If you are a millennial, you, too, may use your phone and/or computer to excess, especially to look at social media sites. It may be difficult or uncomfortable for you to socialize with other people and to make eye contact with them, as a result. As a parent, you must intentionally limit your use of electronics to spend more time communicating with your family to form a cohesive family unit. You’ll also set an example for your kids to follow.
We are part of the electronic age, but we must control our devices and not let them control us. It’s not easy to change a habit, but the gain will be worth the pain! Try it.
— Posted by Tom Salmon for Doris, a fellow member of the Prince William and Manassas Family Alliance