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Screen Time: Important recommendations from Dr. Julia Harper

Monday, October 26, 2020

"We’ve been forced onto screens by the pandemic. Screens for work, screens for school, screens to see our family and friends, screens for entertainment! And while we can be grateful for technology and its benefits, have you been wondering, how is this affecting my brain health?

One major threat to our brain health is excessive screen time. Research shows that over-use of screens can affect our brain and behavior in ways that can range from damage to important brain structures necessary for learning, memory and emotional regulation to diminished function affecting productivity and enjoyment in life.

Here are some quick facts:

  • People are spending an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens (and that was BEFORE COVID!)
  • About 90% of kids are using screens by age one
  • Multiple studies have shown that excessive screen time is associated with:
    • Atrophy (shrinkage or loss of tissue volume) in white and gray matter areas of the brain from excessive screen time
    • A loss of volume in the striatum, an area of your brain involved in addiction and the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses
    • Damage to an area known as the insula, which is involved in our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others
    • Impairments in brain structure and function involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision making, and cognitive control.
    • Damage in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills."

Some suggestions based on her experience and studies (Presentation offered through Colombian Ministry of Health):

Reference: Harper, (2020, October 22) What you might be doing to your brain.

How to reduce screen and video game addiction?

  • No screen time for children under 3 years old
  • Reduce time screen for video games and TV time.
  • No cellphones for children under 12 years old

How to reduce screen time effects?

  • Make sure you take time away from the screen every hour and look at nature, even from a picture.
  • Do active pauses and move your body, specially movements that involve your whole body to produce Serotonin. At least three times during the day.

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