by Scott Becker
WACC hosted Dr. Scott Becker, a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Counseling Center at Michigan State University (MSU), at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) on Tuesday evening, October 25th for a talk about technology and screen time, and what research reveals are impacts of technology on child development and family well-being.
In his presentation titled ‘Digital Moms and Dads: Parenting in the Age of Screen-time and Social Media’, Scott talked about screen time:
Do you find others around you are watching a screen during conversation?
Are phones out at the dinner table?
While screen times is not all bad, and may be necessary for children doing school work, there are some evidence-based, concrete numbers about how much screen time is good screen time, Scott shared that children aged birth to 2 years old should NOT have any screen time at all, because screen time can stunt development of attention and emotion recognition and regulation skills.
Screen time during the prime time of child development – 0-12 years old – can have lasting, detrimental impacts on their brains. Technology does not engage both hemispheres of the brain, and so one side remains underdeveloped, reducing creativity, learning and innovative capacities. Plus, online communication and engagement cannot provide the physical and social feedback that helps children learn, such as facial expressions or body language to support social skills learning.
In adults and children alike, this increased screen time can have detrimental effects on brain function. For example, adults might return home in the evenings and use television, phones, or laptops to unwind, or check out after a long day. But just two (2) hours of exposure to the backlit screen of a device lowers melatonin levels in the body by 22%, making your body and brain think that it is not 9-11pm (bedtime), but rather 3-5pm. This means that it is harder to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Because we have become so sensitized and conditioned to the noises our phones make.
Ever feel that phantom vibration or hear that muted but nonexistent buzz?
Our brain remains on alert to hear our phones buzz and ring with notifications. Instead of calming down and resting, our brain sits up like a watchdog to wait for any noise, even a flicker of sound. Scott recommended turning cell phone notifications off, making the phone silent, or even turning the phone off. If you want to get even more creative, make your cellphone its own sleeping bag and put it out of sight, giving your brain a chance to rest.
Given the rise of technology, the increased use of screen time, and tech-savvy age we live in, knowing the real impacts of our phones and the screens we look at everyday might just help us better prepare ourselves and children for tomorrow.