GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Is your child spending too much time on their smart phone, iPod, tablet, or video games? If so, they’re not alone. Research shows teenagers spend on average 6 ½ hours per day staring at screens and that doesn’t include time in school.
Dr. Delaney Rustin, a Stanford-trained physician and mother of two, recently produced a documentary, “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age”. The film delves into her own family dilemma of whether to get her teenage daughter a smartphone. We held a viewing of the movie at FOX 17 with a local group of teenagers, parents and teachers to get a feel for their biggest concerns with this topic.
Research in the film shows that our kids’ addiction to their screens can be blamed, at-least partly, on dopamine released in the center of their brain. It showed the addiction is similar to addictions with food, alcohol and illicit drugs and video games have shown to be particularly rewarding to the brain, especially in the early teenage years.
Dr. Rustin found the single best way to help control your teen’s addiction to their screen is to develop self-control, and the best way to do that, is through defined goals. Rustin said, “I always thought self-control was an innate skill. When we define goals, like not (using screens) at the dinner table, and we talk about why, then they’ll start to implement that self-control, particularly if we give them rewards. And that’s something I wasn’t doing at all, I was just getting mad and taking it away.”
Another way to help is through a family contract that explains when and how much screen time should be allowed. Dr. Ruston says getting your teen’s input with the contract is crucial in making it work.
“What really showed to work over time was starting to have frequent conversations every Tuesday. We call it Tech Talk Tuesday, where rather than the heat of the moment, we’re sitting down and being mindful of how is technology working in our lives, in the positive. And when we have these conversations, the defensiveness goes way down in both my teenagers,” said Dr. Rustin.