You have been arguing with your kids again about their video game hours, and they can’t seem to put their phones down even to talk about what they want for Christmas. You dread the once-loved Christmas break because you know that the battle between you and their screens will be a hard one, and you fear that the screens will steal one more holiday out of the strong family environment you are trying to create. That gut feeling you have that screens are hurting your kids is there for a reason. Don’t ignore it one more day.
This weekend CBS 60 Minutes aired a powerful story on the new study that the National Institutes of Health is undertaking. The preliminary results are groundbreaking and have huge implications for the well-being of our families. The NIH will spend $300 million and will follow 11,000 kids (9-10 year-olds) for 10 years.
The first wave of data with 4,500 kids is in and the findings should be a huge wake-up call for parents. Here are two findings so far:
- Premature thinning of the cortex. The first round of tests with kids who are on their screens over seven hours a day (including school screens) reveals premature thinning of the cortex. The cortex is outermost layer of the brain, responsible for processing the information our five senses gather from real-world experiences. The scientists can’t report on the exact findings for 10 years, of course, but it doesn’t look good to me.
- Lower scores on thinking (cognitive) and language tests. In the group that spends more than two hours a day on screens, early results have shown lower scores on thinking and language tests.
Not only is screen overuse disrupting childhood, but also now we have further proof that even two hours of screen time per day is not neutral and is changing young brains. If you have been an early adopter on setting screen limits (including delaying that smartphone), keep up the good work! If you need help reducing screen time and replacing it with healthy non-tech activities, explore these resources on our website:
- 10 small steps for big changes in your child’s digital diet
- Non-tech gift ideas
- Screen replacement activities
- Raising a teen without a smartphone
- Balancing screens during the school week
- How real play benefits your child more than video games
Every month Families Managing Media helps families just like yours who want to reduce the use of screens in their homes. We can help you, too. Our 7-Step BEST Screen Plan is on the way; stay tuned for a preview in January! Until then, put Fortnite on a long holiday vacation and give those smartphones a much-needed break.