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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: May 10, 2016.

There is ongoing, good news and sobering news from research concerning kids and screen time. On May 5, Real Clear Science reports on the addicting effects of screen time for teens. In her new documentary Screenagers, Dr. Delaney Ruston addresses why young people are so drawn to social media and video games and what effects they have on kids’ brains.

Common Sense Media issues a report that finds half of all young people feel they are addicted to their devices, almost 60 percent of adults think their kids are addicted too, and a third of parents and teens say that they argue daily about screen time. Now a new documentary explores this topic and offers guidance to families. On May 5, Siff Net announces the screening of the documentary Screenagers in Seattle, as the film makes its way around the country. Further, on May 5, the University of Washington reports on effective and ineffective ways to deal with the addicting effects of screen time for kids.

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In her new documentary Screenagers, Dr. Delaney Ruston addresses why young people are so drawn to social media and video games and what effects they have on kids’ brains : photo courtesy MyDOC Productions.

Common Sense Media has a review of the documentary, Screenagers.  They say, “Parents need to know that Screenagers is a documentary that will likely strike a chord with many parents. It explores how teens interact with each other using electronic device (smartphones, computers, social media, etc.) and looks at whether parents can — or should — try to limit or control this behavior. Many experts share their thoughts on the topics the movie covers, which include tech addiction, violent video games (some clips from the games are shown), digital citizenship, and more…” To learn more about the documentary, how to see it, to find more resources on the topic, go to the documentary’s Website.

On May 4, PBS has presented a report and video on these issues. Dr. Delaney Ruston tells how she was having a really hard time as a mom with her two kids. Her son wanted to play video games a lot and her daughter wanted more and more social media. Dr. Ruston felt that she did not have control. As a doctor, she questioned the impact of all the screen time. She has conducted enlightening research. She has learned that dopamine is secreted in the brain’s pleasure center when we get new bits of information and we look at the screens. The center of the brain where this takes place is most activated for kids and teens. 

Ruston discovered that screens can be like little electronic drug delivery devices.  She has found that many studies look at MRI scans of the brain of kids who play a lot of video games, 20 hours or more of video games a week. When they have compared them to people who are addicted to, say, drugs or alcohol, their brains scans are similar. She found that something serious was happening at a physiological level, not just psychological.

 

Dr. Ruston contends that a big issue is the amount of time kids have developing important skills in learning offline that is related to social engagement, talking to people face to face, and other competencies. She is convinced that teens need time with various situations. Ruston believes that kids also need to learn self-control. The good news is that she is confident that the brain is resilient and can recover from the addicting effects of screen time. Ruston is also finding that kids and teens want to talk about these issues. 

Ongoing research and documentaries continue to provide evidence of the critical need for careful and limited media choices for youth and for parental guidance. The good news is as parents study and apply knowledge of child and brain development that they can make a difference for the young people that they supervise. 

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