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Screen time and parental control: limiting the effects of technology on kids’ brains

Updated: Jun 10, 2019

Kids spend too much time on cell phones, tablets, videogames and TV. That’s a fact! And too much screen time can be harmful for their development. On this post we show what science already knows about the effects of technology and we try to find ways of protecting the kids' brains.

What scientists know already:

According to CBS News story of December 2018, a new and ambitious study about the adolescent brain has just been launched by the National Institutes of Health to examine the effects of too much technology on kids. The scientists are trying to understand the impacts of screen time on the kids’ brains, as well as their emotional development and mental health. They started studying more than 11,000 kids aged 9 and 10-year-old and will follow them for a decade.

Here is what they learned so far:

- Kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens got lower scores on thinking and language tests. The constant use of screens causes atrophy of the cerebral cortex, with less sensorial receptiveness as vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste get less stimulation when screen is used in comparison with other activities. Also, screen usage accelerates the process of cerebral aging.

- Small kids are much more vulnerable to becoming addicted to those devices than a teenager. Toddlers playing with Ipads do not transfer the skills they learn from the tablets to the real world: this means that if they learn to stack virtual Legos on an app, once they get the real Legos, it is like they’ve never done it before. So, the abilities acquired are specific for the computer, not for real life.

- Screen time stimulates the release of dopamine, which has an important role in cravings and desire and is associated to addiction. There is evidence, which will be further studied, that technology can be as chemically addictive as a drug.

- The researches reported that there are big changes in mental health and behavior of the teens born after 1995, the iGeneration. With social media and smartphones, the percentage of teens who reported drinking or having sex fell. But the percentage who said they were lonely or depressed sky rocketed. Not to mention that the ER visits for self-harm among girls age 10 to 14 have tripled!

- A teenager in US spends on average 4 and a half hours a day on their phones. Teens that use social media less than 30 minutes per day present much less depressive and auto destructive symptoms than the teens that are in social media more time than that.

They conclude by saying: "It should be a tool that you use. Not a tool that uses you."

Parental Control on Screen Time?

In our point of view, there is enough evidence to limit kids from using too much technology. Screen time for small kids should be banned and teens should control the amount of time on social media.

And you, what do you think? At your home, what do you do limit screen time? Do you use parental control apps?

On the Iphone itself there are some tools to control screen time and the content, but we have seen a few popular tools for Iphone Parental Controls such as Childtime, MMGuard, OurPact, Time For Kids, Bark, Norton, Net Nanny, etc. Do you use any of them?

Here is what we found online that can help families control the use of technology:

Time Tokens offers a fun “currency” that allows parents to grant screen time to kids in a way that children manage and limit their own screen time. The company also offers a tool to turn chores into a game.

Visual Timer: it is easier for kids to manage their expectations of time when visualize the time expiring. This can be used to grant screen time or to help focusing and organizing while doing homework.

The Psychology of Parental Control, by Wendy S. Grolnick – this book discusses the effects of parental control on protecting children’s lives while still supporting their autonomy.

Gryphon Security and Parent Control Mesh Wifi Router – this is the most popular parent control device on Amazon. So may be worth a try!

Genius Dolls outfits for 18 inch dolls: Instead of screen time, give kids a reason to want play time!

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