social-network_110003543-012814-intVideo games.  Tablets.  Televisions. 

In pockets.  On laps.  In cars.  In restaurants.  In bedrooms. 

Screens can be a constant source of stimulation for kids.  And that stimulation may be causing stress to spike up in your child.


Most parents probably allow screens for education and entertainment, but they don’t associate screen time with stress.

Yet when kids overuse technology, the constant stimulation of the brain causes the stress hormone cortisol to rise.  Too much cortisol can inhibit a child from feeling calm and comforted.

Dr. Archibald Hart says,

“A part of cortisol’s function is to block the tranquility receptors so as to make you more anxious and prepare you to deal with an emergency.  Only, it isn’t a real emergency but instead a game-induced emergency.  This loss of tranquility can lead to more serious anxiety disorders.”

If your child is spending hours playing video games or texting friends, cortisol is flooding her/his brain throughout the day.  To lower your child’s stress level, try these four things to experience peace of mind instead:

Downtime – Just like you need rest after a good physical workout, your brain needs time between tasks to process and consolidate information.  This free “brain time” is often eaten up by screen time for kids.  Give your child space to unwind each day without any screens.

Restricted electronic use –  Without limits, a child can easily spend hours moving from screen to screen.  One TV program turns into two.  One hour turns into two hours.  You know how it goes.  Set clear time limits and enforce them.

Physical exercise – Exercise affects your child’s growing brain in many positive ways.  It increases heart rate (which gets more oxygen to the brain), reduces that stress hormone cortisol, and burns off adrenaline.  Kids who exercise regularly get higher grades, have better concentration, and sleep well.  Exercise releases brain chemicals that naturally fight stress.

Sleep – Certain stages of sleep are needed to cement what your child learned during the day.  That learning doesn’t take place if your child is sleep-deprived.  Don’t have any screens in the bedroom for your child because staring at a bright screen before bedtime keeps kids awake.  Instead turn off the TV, computer, tablet and phone one hour before bedtime to avoid stimulating adrenaline and preventing sleep.

It’s never too late to swap the stress of too much screen time with these good habits.

Arlene Pellicane

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