Digital dementia is a term I first came across recently. With a fourteen and twelve year old it’s been on my mind, can kids really get dementia?!
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been diving into the research #vestedinterest. This is what I’ve found… As you can imagine, it’s not good.
I have to admit that our kids have definitely experienced tech trance (or dare I say, tech rage). Technology and devices are entrenched in our lives, we can’t avoid them, yet there’s much we can do to manage them and make them safe. It’s an important conversation – whatever age your kids are (and for us as adults).
Research is showing that in the USA 95% of children aren’t getting enough sleep, exercise or safe screen use, much of it’s related to device use. The average amount of time children are using a device is 7.5 hrs / day. For some teens it’s 8 – 12 hours /day! You might’ve noticed it yourself. Driving past the bus stops as kids are waiting for the school bus or as soon as they leave school, devices out, necks craned, sucked into another world.
Mental illness, such as anxiety and depression is accelerating in our kids! The following can help paint a picture as to what’s going on.
What is digital dementia?
Briefly, digital dementia is the thinning of the brain cortex (outer layer of the brain) responsible for thinking, speech, feeling, decision making and processing information received from our senses.
Signs of digital dementia and excessive screen time;
Our childrens’ brains are still developing and therefore so much more vulnerable to what we expose them too, especially the affects of technology and digital devices.
The other affects are equally alarming & are contributing to digital dementia;
We can’t prevent our kids using them & there are positives, but we do need to teach them a healthy & safe relationship to technology, and importantly being good role models ourselves.
Childrens’ developing brains and bodies are especially vulnerable to what they are exposed to, especially technology.
This varies depending on the research. However, it is clear that children under the age of 2 years old should have very little exposure, if any, to a device. For other age groups it will depend on how they’re using it and what they’re using it for. Blocks of 2 hour usage is a general recommendation with an average use of 2 – 3 hours a day.
What we can do
The best antidote: Exercise. Movement stimulates the hippocampus (responsible for memory & affected by device use), keep them moving.
Simply taking the kids outside with unstructured play, shoes off is a fantastic place to start.
This generation of children are ‘guinea pigs’ i.e. an experiment in understanding just what the developmental ramifications of screen time will be for them? It’s untested. However we DO know, that as a species we are already far more inactive and moving less efficiently than our ancestors, and screens are only exacerbating this.
For kids to thrive they need interpersonal and parental presence and genuine connection with more time outside, shoes off, skin exposed to the weather, enjoying creative, free play. It’s their human nature.
Our children are older so it’s been easy sharing this research with them. And I remind them it’s hard for me to manage too! They’re not alone. Try creating a sky time v screen time plan together.
Forewarned is to be forearmed. We have all had times when the kids have spent way too much time on their devices. There is no guilt, just awareness. When we know better we can do better.
I hope this helps you and your family limit the potentially devastating affect technology is having on our kids developing brains… the unique intelligence that governs the rhythmic, vital function of their amazing bodies.
Now I’d love to hear how you manage devices in your home? Please share in the comments below.