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Screen Addiction or Just Having Fun?

It never fails, my kids wake up and the very FIRST thing on their minds, or rather the first three things they wanna do even while wiping the sleep from their eyes are video games, surfing on the computer or popping in a movie! We’re supposed to say no to drugs but are these screens a drug too? After all it’s the perfect babysitter, right?

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Growing up I remember having that Atari 2600 in the corner and spending hours playing Asteroids and Space Invaders, and then the Nintendo came out and all’s I could think about was going over to my friends house and jumping Mario and Luigi all over the place (hopefully he’s not reading this 15 years later thinking I used him, oops!) Then came computer gaming and the advent of the internet when I was a teenager and I was toast (still kinda am!) So why do I care if my kids follow in my footsteps, I turned out okay right? Wait, don’t answer that!

When we find something we like, our normal response is to keep seeking out that thing and doing it for hours on end. Why? Well, we say it’s cause we’re doing what our hearts desire but it actually has more to do with the brain.

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When we are doing something we enjoy, the levels of a chemical called dopamine (yup, where the term ‘dope’ is from) increases in our brains which gives us a rewarding sensation and apparently when we stare at an interactive or visually busy screen, studies have shown that the dopamine levels in our brains spike to double their normal levels. So, your brain will start seeking out the cause of that spike more and more, which explains why your kids are constantly asking about it so in a sense, they aren’t in complete control of their actions. The same can be true for you too when it comes to blowing hours on Facebook or catching up on a whole season of your favorite show in one sitting. I mean, if I watch tv too long or anything like that I actually lose my ability to function normally, it’s like I’m in a daze and I end up sporting a headache after awhile too. But besides that, how do we know when is enough is enough?

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Well, when your kids start getting less social and choose screens above other things they love (especially physical ativity) and if their grades are dropping because they’re spending too much time zombied out to do their homework, then you might need to start regulating their intake. If they constantly give you flack after you suggest other activities for balance, then that’s a definite red flag too. Otherwise, don’t worry it’s perfectly normal behavior, especially in this digital multimedia age (even if it’s you that’s hooked on screens, not your kids, just make sure you get your chores done first!) Besides, maybe your kid will go into compter programming or be a movie director someday because of all those hours spent in front of those screens. Just saying, you could br the beneficiary of some future perks, besides being proud of them of course!

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