Addicted to the screen: What screen time does to the body and why it’s so addictive

Do your kids constantly want to have more screen time? Do you wish they preferred to play outside, with their friend or toys? Do you feel like you never have enough hours in the day yourself to do the things you want or need? But can easily waste 5 minutes here, 20 minutes there on your phone?

I was chatting with my neighbour the other day who had used an app to measure the amount of time she was spending on her phone and on social media. She was racking up 3 and a half hours a day. That’s more than 24 hours a week. Thats more time than a part-time job!

Since working online I’ve noticed that if I do any work or reply to messages in the evenings then I feel more alert and getting to sleep and switching off from the day is so much harder. I am a master problem-solver so I wanted to use my skills to find out what it is about screens that are so addictive so that I could find a way to manage my own screen time as well as that of my daughters. And this is what I found:

*When we watch a screen, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in the brain. This is rewarding and feels very pleasurable

*It feels so pleasurable that we want to do more and more of it which is why we can feel a magnetic pull to our phones even when another part of us wants to be as far away as possible from it.

*We are animals and are hard-wired for survival. Social media and becoming absorbed in a movie, feed our need to be social and finding out about our competition helps us feel like we have found our place in the hierarchy. Those hours on google help us feel like we know whats what and more in control of our life and surroundings.

*This is the same for all humans, adults and kids. However the reward system in the brain of a child is not yet fully developed and this can put a strain on it’s development.

*When were feeling bored, stressed or depressed, zoning out on our phones or in front of a screen provides a distraction from these difficult feelings.

*Research has found that the dopamine from screen time can impair children’s impulse control and increase their demand for instant gratification (you know how they can get really grouchy after watching TV for a long time?)

*Screens can keep us in a chronic state of hyperarousal which contributes to feelings of stress and overwhelm

Although the hit of dopamine is powerful, the good news is that we are powerful beings too. And we are strong enough to recognise our evolutional drives, urges and impulses and chose how we respond to them. We have the power to choose how we want to spend our time and we have the ability to make this choice over and over each day. It doesn’t come down to willpower, it comes down to choices. Choosing to learn how to change any behaviour we want to, choosing to be more disciplined and choosing whether we want to live life through our phone or live the real one that’s right in front of us.

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