“Julia, tell me the truth!” the voice demanded. “I know I can always count on you for that.” It was one of my longtime parents. She was reaching out because she had this nagging question, and according to her, “I can trust you for the real answer.”
My association with Cindy started about 10 years ago when I treated her then 4-year old son Jason for his Processing Disorder. Cindy was a loving, firm, no-nonsense kind of mother who was fierce and would claw through WHOEVER and WHATEVER to protect her son. Jason, now a 14-year old was doing great! He was in his life, doing well socially, academically, and she was grateful beyond words. I would typically hear from Cindy for my annual Jason update and photo.
I was surprised to get a call in the middle of the year…but this isn’t the typical year. This is 2020; this is COVID’s year. And with that, Cindy is in a panic. She’s worried because her Jason is at home, living on a screen. Screen for school, screen for friends, and according to her, “screens for even f…ing sports!”
“Tell me, she says, is this damaging his brain? I remember you talking to me about screens and his brain all those years ago. We worked too hard on this brain, Julia. Help me, how do I protect my kid’s brain!”
And the answer is…
Cindy’s not off the mark here. Her maternal ‘Spidey Senses’ are right on target. As the pandemic has driven us all inside onto screens to protect our physical health, her gut told her that something else was in danger. She couldn’t name it. So, I did. It’s Brain Health.
Brain Health is the heath of the structures of the brain. As parents, we pay attention to our children’s physical health. We attend to their mental and emotional health. And here was Cindy at this moment, questioning herself and her choices because something inside of her said ‘pay attention to his brain health.’ Although she didn’t have those words, she was worried.
And she was right. It’s important to care for our children’s brain health. Our children need their brains to be healthy to do everything from performing well in school to the ability to engage in daily living skills and actively participate in relationships with family and friends.
One major threat to our children's brain health is the current level of exposure to screen time. Approximately 90% of kids are using screens by the age of one, and most elementary-aged children are spending an average of 5 hours on a screen! Teenagers are spending upwards of 7-9 hours. And that was BEFORE COVID.
Compelling research shows that over-use of screens affects brain health. These effects range from damage to essential brain structures necessary for learning, memory, and emotional regulation to diminished function affecting productivity and enjoyment in life.
So, while we need to balance the practical matter of the pandemic and what that means for school and almost everything else, we can be grateful for technology and its benefits. However, we must take into consideration the adverse effect of this on the brain health of our children.
COUNTERACTION is KEY
So, realistically, what can parents do?
First, get informed. When you know better, you do better. That’s what Cindy did. She called me because she wanted to get clear, practical information to make the best decisions to protect her son’s brain.
Second, the good news is that you can DO something about counteracting the adverse effects of screen time. Just as some behaviors and activities can preserve and optimize our body's health and to preserve our mental health, the same is true for the brain. You can also learn how to minimize behaviors and toxins that can negatively affect your child's brain.
Cindy inspired me. I figured if she is scared and needs good information, others feel the same too. My team and I are here to help you sort through 'fake-news' so you can make appropriate decisions based on science, not hearsay. We are offering 1-hour webinar consultations for Parents and Special Needs Parents to give provide clear information on:
- The effects of screen time on the brain
- Determine how much screen time to allow
- Make decisions about necessary versus unnecessary screen time
- Know what to do to reduce the adverse effects of the screen time
Remember: Make Conscious Choices to Protect Your Child's Brain Health. Be Conscious! Be Informed! Be Brain Healthy!