October-19: Health

Screen addiction can restructure your brain


It is midnight and you know you should put the phone down and go to sleep, but five more minutes turns into another hour or more when you are engrossed in social media. By now, most of us are aware of the dangers of smartphones and social media. We are in fact addicted to them ignoring the harm they are inflicting on our lives.

Phones have become a constant distraction. Higher levels of social media engagement have been associated with lower mood and feelings of dissatisfaction in life, partly due to FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. It has been found that FOMO leads to higher cases of anxiety and depression, stress, sleep difficulties, and even psychosomatic symptoms.

Currently kids and teens are growing up in a world dominated by screens-phones, tablets, computers and TVs. Earlier, the adverse effects of peer pressure on teenagers used to be balanced out by the time spent at home with family. Now with screens stealing all their attention, they are isolated from the family’s care and reassurance.

A latest National Institutes of Health (NIH) study examined brain scans of 9-10 year old children to find out what screen time does to their brains. Preliminary results from 4,500 children suggests that it is literally affecting their brain structure depending on how much screen time they were exposed to. Children who spent 7 hours on their screens everyday showed premature thinning of the brain’s layer that processes information from the physical world. Also children who spend more than 2 hours of daily screen time score lower on thinking and language tests.

Fighting smartphone addiction

The easy solution to save yourself and your kids is to turn off and put away the phone, but that isn’t so easy. However, there are ways to make giving up, or at least reducing smartphone use easier. Engage in some digital detox. Set up certain times of day when everyone puts their phone away or does not look at social media. Don’t take your cell phone to bed, use an old fashioned alarm to wake you. And last, try to replace smart device time with healthier activities such as family time, meditating or actually interacting with real people.

Sources: www.bloombergquint.com, www.bloomberg.com, www.medium.com, www.nytimes.com

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