Digital Addiction – What do we do as parents?

Digital Addiction – What do we do as parents?

girls looking at a laptop

When I grew up, the closest thing we had to the Internet was the local library. And a mobile phone was something you played with by tying long pieces of string to tin cans. We even had walkie talkies, which were really cool. Our television programmes started in the afternoon and generally you only had two or three channels to choose from. Wireless was an old-fashioned word for the radio and digital addiction wasn’t even a thing.

The Millennial Generation has had a very different childhood experience. The explosion of technology in recent decades has been significant and this has impacted young children considerably. The number of electronic toys for children and teens has slowly replaced “regular toys”. Books have been replaced by e-readers, board games by apps, even pets have been replaced with apps and robotic equivalents that claim to be just like the real thing.

But what impact is this technology having on our children?

 

Brain Impairment

Studies[1] are showing the longer children spend looking at the screens on tablets and phones, the more they run the risk of damaging their brain structure and function. Parts of the brain begin to atrophy (shrink) because children are not receiving the human interactions that develop those areas. Other developed areas are being damaged by excessive screen time.

Most of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe and considering the frontal lobe undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties, this is very significant for a developing child.

The frontal lobe is the area of the brain that controls executive functions, such as planning,  prioritising, organising, and impulse control (decision-making and “getting stuff done”).  Excessive screen time is a stimulant that results in many children suffering from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyper-aroused nervous system. These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention.

Damage also occurs to the insula region of the brain, which houses our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others, and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behaviour, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships.

Digital Addiction

Children now have a lot more access to this technology. Studies [2] show children as young as three years old are being given their own tablet device and children 10 years old are being given their own smartphone. Looking around, it’s not uncommon to see just about every child who can hold a phone in their hands appears to be glued to the mobile screen.  Once they work out that there is an entire world accessible to them through that little device, it becomes their most treasured possession.

Research [3] on video games has shown dopamine is released during gaming and that cravings or urges for gaming produces brain changes that are similar to drug cravings.. Thus, digital addiction is born.

The harm goes beyond excessive screen time

The brain is not the only body part being affected by electronic devices. Studies [4] all over the world are saying the microwave radiation (which is how all wireless devices send and receive data) coming off a phone or tablet, is causing biological harm through long-term exposure. Recent studies have found links between brain and heart cancer from long-term exposure to microwave radiation, and much more. In all of the research two elements seem to be most significant: long-term exposure effects and amount of exposure. You could say, “Well my child only has two hours of screen time during the day…” But what about the exposure to the Wi-FI router in the house? The exposure to the Wi-Fi router in their school? And if they carry their smartphone on their body throughout the day, what about the amount of microwave radiation exposure during that time period? The cumulative exposure to microwave radiation daily is changed significantly when you take into consideration these extra environmental influences.

Solutions exist

So what do you do as a parent, when your children are quite literally digitally addicted to their wireless internet devices? And you probably are as well. In fact, the odds are that you are reading this on a wireless device…

For parents and children the answers are complex: You can’t simply tell them not to use the device, especially if you use one. That road leads to a lot of arguments and eventually a breakdown in your relationship.

Of course, mobile phones have tremendous value as well. If you are ever in a serious road accident the first thing you need to do is call for emergency services from your mobile phone. The list of benefits of technology is enormous too. But wireless technology – like any other technology – must be treated with respect and caution.

The answer is to find out how to minimise the damage and be clever about it:

A car will kill a teenager far quicker than their mobile phone will ever give them brain cancer, and for a car we undertake a driver’s course and practical tests, in order to be able to use a very dangerous vehicle.

So why not take a training course on how to use a smartphone, a tablet, a wireless router and all the other wireless technology in your home, schools and offices? Learn how to use the devices in a manner which reduces the risks and the exposure levels.

To this end our non-profit Wireless Education has created quick, low-cost scientifically and medically sound online training courses.  They firstly explain a whole lot more about the wireless technology used to transmit the data, and secondly, offer a number of practical ways in which you can still use technology, but comply with the manufacturers’ safety instructions, the recommendations of world-wide scientists, and best practices from medical and environmental health specialists to reduce your risks.

 

You can find these 40-minute courses here.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23328472, http://www.ejradiology.com/article/S0720-048X%2813%2900073-9/abstract, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0020708, http://www.ejradiology.com/article/S0720-048X%2809%2900589-0/abstract
  2. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-in-america-2013
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20545602
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21331446#nf
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