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Cayman Parent | Articles | Expert Advice | CP Tips | The Danger of Too Much Screen Time

CP Tips | The Danger of Too Much Screen Time

Child with screens circling head too much screen time

Screen time is increasingly replacing the time that children and teenagers used to spend playing outside, hanging out with friends or talking to their families. Digital devices are so ubiquitous, and the games and apps available so engrossing, that screen addiction is becoming a very real danger. According to Common Sense Media the average American teen spends nine hours a day on digital media for enjoyment, while market research firm Childwise reports that 5 to 16 year olds in the UK spend between five and seven hours a day in front of a screen.  – Natasha Were 

Obesity: With so many hours monopolised by screens, children are not getting the physical activity that they need to grow up fit and healthy: it’s a big contributor to the skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity, and it also means they are missing out on the joys of the great outdoors.

Socialisation Skills: Because so much of their interaction with their peers takes place via text message, through gaming or apps like Snapchat, virtual connections are replacing real friendships and socialisation skills are negatively affected.

Psychological Effects: The most worrying perhaps are the psychological effects: free or creative play is key in early childhood development, but the constant stimulation that children get from colourful moving images on screens may be stunting their own creative abilities. They’re receiving stimulation in a passive form – it’s being fed to them constantly – and as a consequence they are not having to use their imaginations to invent their own games and entertainment. With their attention narrowed down to one focal point – a screen – their awareness of, and natural curiosity about the real world is dulled or deadened.

Video Game Addiction

Video games are particularly dangerous. These games are designed to be as addictive as possible: brain imaging shows that when engaged in video games like Candycrush or Minecraft dopamine levels are raised. These are the feel-good neurotransmitters that play a key role in addiction dynamics. In other words, the brain of a child addicted to gaming looks like the brain of a person on drugs.

Not all digital technology is bad…

There are plenty of educational YouTube channels, apps that can help with reading and arithmetic, and interactive games that make them exercise their minds and bodies. Banning screens completely is therefore not necessarily the answer. A parents’ job is, after all, to prepare their child for the future – a future that will no doubt be filled with digital devices. So they’re going to need to be familiar with them – but also understand the dangers they pose. Addiction experts warn that overcoming gaming and screen addiction is as hard, if not harder than, overcoming substance addiction, so it’s vital to prevent that addiction taking hold.

Can Screen Addiction Lead To Brain Damage?

According to Dr. Victoria Dunckley, author of the article ‘Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain,’ for, there have been multiple studies involving the neuroimaging of children’s brains that clearly show that excessive screen time can lead to brain damage. These studies show that, amongst other things, gray matter in our children’s brains atrophy (shrink) in the area where processing occurs; this affects their planning and organising skills as well as the ability to organise and control their impulses.


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