Our friends at BrainGain pointed out an article by British psychologist and biologist Aric Sigman in the British MailOnline that pulls together recent research from around the globe, painting a clear picture of the deleterious effects of screen time, and that picture is far from pretty.
While screen time has been shown to have negative psychological effects, Sigman points out that watching TV and/or video games also have these effects:
• Suppression of melatonin release: Healthy levels of melatonin help regulate sleep, the immune system, and the onset of puberty. When children who watched an average amount of TV had all screen time removed, their melatonin levels went up by 30 percent after one week.
• Increased chance of coronary heart disease: Says Sigman, “Those who watched four or more hours were 80 percent more likely to suffer a fatal heart condition.”
• Changes in chemicals related to hunger and feeling satisfied: After 45 minutes of screen time, subjects consumed 230 calories more than those who had no screen time.
• Release of dopamine: Screen time causes the release of dopamine, a chemical that contributes to learning and concentration. As a result, our brains may become desensitized to the effects of normal levels of dopamine, making it hard to concentrate and focus on non-screen-based stimuli.
Our beef with screen time is this last point, i.e. that it erodes the ability of children to pay attention to less engaging activities including the teacher in class and reading which often ends up being diagnosed as inattentive attention deficit disorder. But there are also health issues involved. Parents need to recognize these risks and encourage their children to make their own smart decisions to lead long, healthy lives.