CSP Team Note: We recently spoke with Dr. Rhonda Patt, a pediatrician at Charlotte Pediatric Clinic, about screen addiction and how it affects our kids. Don’t miss our Smarty Town Hall on Social Media Parenting 3.0 where you will get a chance to hear from experts from our community, including Dr. Patt, and talk to parents with kids of all ages on all things social media and parenting. The Smarty Town Hall on Social Media Parenting will be on April 29 from 2-4 pm at Charlotte Christian School. It’s FREE! Click here to register.
What is screen addiction?
The amount of time children of all ages are spending in front of screens – smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions – has increased drastically over the past decade. So many parents are faced with the challenge of trying to figure out. How much is too much? Parents may wonder, “Is my child addicted to watching videos of kids playing Minecraft, building Legos, or opening surprise eggs?” Or if you have an older child, it may be more about social media or Fortnite. The tough part is that the answer may vary depending on the child and the content of what’s being viewed.
The concept of “screen addiction” is relatively new and has not been clearly defined. The American Psychological Association has proposed the diagnosis of Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) as a “condition for further study” in the DSM-V manual. It is described as “Persistent and recurrent use of the internet to engage in games, often with other players, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress…”
How does it affect a child’s brain?
When children play video games or participate in social media, certain chemicals are released giving a child a false sense of accomplishment. These chemicals are powerful and can be “addictive” in the sense that the child will continue to seek that same feeling.
How can we tell if our child has a screen addiction and does it differ by age?
Signs of screen addiction are similar to other addictive behaviors and some of these include:
– Preoccupation with internet gaming or internet use for social media
– Irritability, anxiousness, or sadness when the device is taken away
– Loss of interest in previous hobbies
– Lying or being deceptive to family members or therapists about internet gaming or social media
– Using internet gaming or social media to escape or relieve a negative mood
– Continued use despite a negative impact on school, career, or relationships
What are the AAP guidelines and recommendations for screen use by age?
Less than 18 months: Avoid screen time other than video-chatting with friends or family.
18-24 months: May introduce digital media but should focus on high-quality programming and should watch it with their children.
2-5 years: Limit screen time to 1 hour per day of high-quaility programming.
6 years and older: Place consistent limits on screen time and make sure it is not interfering with adequate physical activity and sleep.
Other recommendations include:
– Avoid the use of media as the only way to calm your child
– Avoid “background TV” (turn off devices when not in use)
– Keep mealtimes and bedrooms free of electronics
What are some good resources for parents who think their child has a problem?
If you suspect that your child’s screen time might be adversely affecting him or her, your child’s pediatrician or healthcare provider can serve as an excellent resource. A great starting point for intervention/ prevention is to set up a family media use plan and set specific guidelines for your family on media use and screen time: www.healthychildren.org/MediaUsePlan
Dr. Rhonda Patt, Pediatrician, Charlotte Pediatric Clinic
Dr. Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician at Charlotte Pediatric Clinic, part of Atrium Health, and has been a practicing pediatrician for almost 15 years. She is currently serving as an Assistant Specialty Medical Director and Social Media Chair at Levine Children’s Hospital. Dr. Patt has been a contributor for the Charlotte Observer’s MomsCharlotte blog site, and is a mother of three herself. She attended UNC- Chapel Hill for undergrad, West Virginia University for medical school and completed her pediatrics residency at Carolinas Medical Center.