Summer Vacation Screen Time
June 23, 2022
With summer vacation quickly approaching, many of us are thinking about pool time, beaches, family trips, camping and free time. A lot of children will be looking forward to these things and also more screen time during their break from school.
There is a lot of fun to be had through gaming and many children connect with friends through this kind of activity as well. Conversely, concerns arise around the potential for children to develop negative behaviours related to screen time and gaming addictions that can be very problematic. The question remains, how much is appropriate and the answer is complicated and different for each child.
Video games and screen time in general can release dopamine in our brains, which helps us feel good and leads us to repeat activities that release more dopamine. These activities can also provide a sense of accomplishment and achievement, leading to less sensitivity to other rewards and a need to play video games to feel rewarded. Children and individuals with ADHD may be at higher risk for some of these negative symptoms and even addiction to gaming.
Parents and guardians can watch for some of the following behaviours that can indicate that a child’s screen time and video game time is too much and as such, is becoming an area of concern.
If you notice your child is losing interest in seeing friends, playing sports or other hobbies and appears to be preoccupied with screens and video games, this can be a big red flag. Using video games to help them feel better or pull themselves out of a negative mood can be cause for concern. Becoming emotional when video game and screen time is decreased or removed is indicative that an evaluation of frequency and timing may be necessary. Older children may even begin to sneak gaming time and try to hide the fact that they are playing.
More concerning is the fact that there is a definite correlation between loneliness and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. It is unknown however, if addiction to gaming is a cause or a symptom of these serious conditions.
The bottom line is that our children now live in a world of technology so it is relatively unavoidable. Screen time and video games can be an outlet, a source of fun and enjoyment and a privilege that children look forward to. It is important to understand, learn to recognize and address problematic behaviour before it begins to have increased negative affects on a child’s mental health, school work, social interactions and emotional growth.