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Addiction to Media

Cell Phone Screens, Tablets, Media, Video Games and Your Brain at any Age

 Marc Milstein, Ph.D

Recently I had the good fortune to attend a most interesting presentation, entitled Addiction to Media given by Dr. Marc Milstein, a scientist who received his doctorate in biological chemistry from UCLA. Please see his website for much more, Below, is a brief summary of some of his intriguing points.

The very well attended lecture kept us in rapt attention. He began by posing this question: What do you suppose is the AVERAGE screen time for teenagers? Various answers followed until he informed us that It is 7 hours per day. The Journal of American Medicine – Feb. 2019 recommends from 1-2 hours, the “perfect amount for the happiness quotient.” The concern is that with so much more screen time, our young people may well be missing out on such imperatives as exercise and socialization, to name just a few. . In addition, recent studies indicate that excessive screen time can make the individual twice as likely to develop anxiety and stress, and affects curiosity and ability to finish projects.

Dr. Milstein explains that as we watch our screens the brain releases the chemical dopamine, which causes us to pay attention, focus like a laser and become unaware of distractions. In fact, he added, rats who have elevated dopamine and are focusing on some activity will pay no attention to food, even when it is placed next to them.

Our brains have an endless desire to seek out information and satisfy curiosity. Our cell phones and computer screens surely magnificently fit that bill! Brain exhaustion, eye strain and overproduction of stress hormones can easily be the result of over stimulation. A younger child, perhaps 8 years old, is even more at risk for over-stimulation than a teen of 14 years whose brains are much more developed.

With teen suicide and depression on the rise, there could well be some link to overuse of screen time. Research shows that digital overuse can increase feelings of loneliness. It behooves us to seriously monitor our children, remembering always that our brains are importantly wired for human interaction.

To conclude… our computers and smart phones, like anything else, require responsible usage. Healthy balance, like all else we do, is again the best prescription, however challenging that may be. .

Some of Dr. Milstein’s takeaways…

  • 1-2 hours of screen time is perfect so no missing out on socialization and exercise, so very important.

  • No early phone check so dopamine isn’t stimulated so early in the day.

  • Try to check our screens only at certain times a day, on a predetermined basis so it fits in with a BALANCED lifestyle. Overuse is similar to over eating. Over-eating causes us to not be aware of fullness. So it is with over use of computers and brain exhaustion.

  • 90% increase in eyeglass use since the advent of the Smart Phone in 2012.

  • Finally, lead by example.

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