Today’s youth spend most of their time looking at screens. Studies show that the average eight- to ten-year-old spends more than eight hours per day on some kind of media. Older children and teens spend even more time on their tablets, phones, computers, T.V.s, and other media devices: 11 hours per day.
The Chinese Health Organization has even recognized screen addiction as a clinical disorder. And although the U.S. doesn’t consider screen addiction a mental health condition, more and more psychiatrists are recognizing it as an issue, especially in young people.
Dr. Nicholas Kardaras says that even though screen addiction isn’t officially in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM—5), it is marked as a topic that requires further study and review.
Is screen addiction really causing that much damage to today’s youth? In this blog, we will discuss three major issues caused by too much screen time.
As we discussed in our previous blog on the dangers of social media, screens are associated with poor sleep. Even looking at a digital screen for just a few minutes before bed blocks the brain’s production of melatonin, which makes it harder to fall asleep. And the light from the screen in a bedroom can also lead to disruptions in sleep.
Of course, lack of sleep or poor sleep is also associated with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Sleep deprivation can also lead to other health issues like weight gain, high blood pressure, and weakened immunity. If you don’t want to limit screen time during the day, try to at least limit screen time before bed and while in bed trying to fall asleep.
In an interview with Vice, Psychiatrist, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, explains that kids’ brains develop most neural connections when they engage their imaginations through things like creative play. T.V. and video games don’t provide children with the opportunity to create their own imaginative images in their heads — the programs do it for them, which stunts their creative development.
It’s important for children to have a healthy balance between playing with screens and participating in other activities like playing outside and interacting socially with their peers. Too much screen time at an early age could be detrimental to a child’s development.
When asked about screen addiction’s effects on mental health conditions like ADHD, Dr. Kardaras explained that there is research to support that screen exposure makes a child more likely to develop ADHD. He also referenced studies and peer-reviews that link screen addiction to increased anxiety and depression. But the most upsetting correlation he pointed out is between screen addiction and psychosis.
Dr. Kardaras says that he has worked with several teens who experienced psychotic breaks due to gaming, which is known as “Game Transfer Phenomenon.” Kardaras also points out that children develop their sense of what’s real and what’s not between the ages of three and ten. If a child is exposed to media that blurs their reality during those years, they will have trouble discerning their reality.
According to Dr. Kardaras, screen addiction is just as dangerous as heroin or cocaine addiction and it’s much harder to treat. With countries like China officially recognizing screen addiction as a mental health condition, and with more and more children and teens in the U.S. needing treatment for conditions related to too much screen exposure, it seems like the American Psychiatric Association is right to mark screen addiction as a topic that needs more research.
Hopefully, we can continue to learn about the effects of screens on mental health and develop treatment options for this kind of addiction. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition related to screen addiction, Serenity Mental Health Centers can help. Contact us to learn more about your options.