Screen Dependency Disorder Is Real, and It Damages Your Child’s Brain

When was the last time you saw a kid staring at a screen? Five minutes ago? Unfortunately, this is a common practice, and almost every child on this planet has its eyes glued to dangerous screens. Yes, they are dangerous.

Technology may be great, but it affects our youth and its development. Children know how to handle a smartphone, and that’s not something you brag about. They are easily bored, and their parents cannot find a solution to the problem. Buying your kid a tablet is not a solution.

Your regular “screen time” may lead to serious behavioral problems. Kids get emotional and aggressive, and believe it or not, experts add the word “suicide,” too. It is that bad

Screen Dependency Disorder: The Danger of Excessive Screen Time

There is no difference between playing games or using apps. Almost every kid becomes addictive because they spend too much time using smartphones and tablets.

Your child’s brain is still susceptible to significant changes in its structure and connectivity. Several factors affect its neural development and may lead to screen dependency disorder.

Here are some of the classifications of screen dependency disorder:

  • Internet addiction disorders
  • Internet gaming disorder
  • Problematic internet use
  • Compulsive internet use
  • Pathological video game use
  • Video game addiction
  • Pathological technology use
  • Online game addiction
  • Mobile phone dependence
  • Social network site addiction
  • Facebook addiction

Dr. Aric Sigman did a research on the problem, and the results were released in the Journal of the International Child Neurology Association. “‘Addiction’ is a term increasingly used to describe the growing number of children engaging in a variety of different screen activities in a dependent, problematic manner,” the psychologist explained.

8 common symptoms of screen dependency disorder

Observe your child to determine if it has some of the following symptoms:

  • Preoccupation
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Increasing tolerance
  • Failure to reduce or stop screen activities
  • Loss of outside interests
  • Continuation despite negative consequences
  • Lying about extent of use
  • Use to escape adverse moods

Is Screen Dependency Disorder prevalent among kids?

According to a 2015 study published in Behavioral Sciences, about 12 percent of young American adolescent gamers are “pathological video-gamers.” Playing games may not involve using chemical substances, but it sure leads to the development of addiction-like symptoms.

Dr. George Lynn says that 80 percent of the problems his patients have come from gaming, watching online videos and unhealthy use of social media. Dr. Lynn has noticed “a personality syndrome that comes from basically unbridled, uncontrolled use of recreational use of screen media during the day and at night.”

“Most doctors, family doctors, even psychiatric practitioners are not hip to the obvious fact that a kid might be only getting two to three hours of sleep at night if that,” explains Dr. Lynn. “And that causes personality problems.”

Excessive screen time is dangerous

Dealing with a screen dependency disorder has terrible effect. Claudette Avelino-Tandoc, Family Life and Child Development specialist and Early Childhood Education consultant, says that this disorder causes insomnia, back pain, weight fluctuation, vision issues, headache, anxiety, dishonesty, feelings of guilt, and loneliness.

The most severe symptoms include brain damage. Scientists have found that excessive use of screens and the screen dependency disorder are responsible for the shrinkage of children’s brain. Believe it or not, children lose tissue in the frontal lobe, striatum and insula. These parts of the brain are responsible for planning, organization, suppression of socially unacceptable impulses, and the capacity to trigger compassion and empathy.

“Devices or gadgets are not bad per se. They are useful and essential tools for communication, research, learning, entertainment, among other things,” notes Dr. Avelino-Tandoc. “Parents are dealing with 21st century learners, what we call ‘digital natives.’ They should allow their kids to manipulate these tools. However, balance is the key word.”

5 tips for parents whose children deal with screen dependency disorder

The American Academy of Pediatrics has come up with new recommendations when it comes to using media, and they involve Dr. Lynn’s methods.

0-18 months

Use screen media only when you have to do video-chatting. If your child is 18-24 months and you want to introduce digital media, make sure you choose high-quality programming. Sit next to your child and help them understand the content.

2-5 years

Do not let your kid use screens longer than 1 hour. Help your child understand the content of the program, and suggest some ways to use it in their everyday life.

6+ years

Limit the time your child spends on the computer or the smartphone. Make sure the “screen time” does not affect its sleeping pattern or physical activity.

Set rules and respect them

Enjoy screen-free times, and go out more often. Pick several activities that you both enjoy, and help your kid understand that it does not need the phone or the tablet all the time.


Your child wants you to talk. You may not hear these words that often, but your child needs your advice and your opinion. Talk about online citizenship and safety. Pay more attention to the way it treats people online and offline.


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