Lifestyle Addictions: The Effects Of Gaming & Screen Time

Lifestyle Addictions

Technology is developing at an exponential rate, contributing positively to areas of education, medicine, and research. However, this rapid rate of development has left many people playing catch up when it comes to managing technology.

Sadly, excessive gaming and screen time have led to lifestyle addictions which can further lead to mental and physical repercussions if left unmanaged. In order to combat the risk of screen addiction, it’s important to understand the risks, the guidelines, and how to get professional help if you (or a loved one) have gone too far.

Rise Of Gaming and Screen Time

Unhealthy screen habits are starting earlier. Research shows that the daily use of television, computers and mobile devices by children has tripled from the age of one to three years old. This “explosive growth” surpasses the World Health Organization’s recommended time of being in front of the screen.

As a relatively new topic that has risen in debate during the past 10 – 15 years, the issue of gaming and screen time continues to be a hot topic. It’s important to know your stance and be aware of the dangers of screen time, especially if it develops a nasty grip on your children’s lives.

How Much Is Too Much?

Research has shown that spending too much time in front of the screen can steal from your child’s early physical and mental development. These negative effects are not exclusive to early development, but also a child’s development and health in later years.

But when technology plays such an important role in education and entertainment, how do you determine how much is too much?

The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that children aged between 8 and 18 spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens. The AHA recommends that parents limit screen time for kids to a maximum of two hours per day where possible.

For younger kids, aged 2 to 5, the recommended limit is one hour per day. In addition, children younger than 18 months should have no screen time at all (other than perhaps video-chatting their loved ones).

Risks of Too Much Screen Time

It’s easy to let the guidelines slide when faced with a screaming toddler or a sulking teenager, but you could be doing more harm than good by giving in to the extra hour (or more). Research has shown that there are serious short-term and long-term risks associated with too much screen time.

  • Delayed Learning and Development

    There have been several research studies that show high levels of screen time to have an effect on delayed development in children. During the ages of 2 to 5-years old, a child’s brain develops at a rapid rate and excessive screen time can hinder a child’s ability to develop optimally.

    The theory is that when young children spend time in front of a screen, they are losing valuable time that could be spent practicing interpersonal, motor and communication skills. There is a similar risk posed to older children and teens who miss out on opportunities for self-discovery and socializing because of screen addiction.

  • Health Risks

    Too much screen time also introduces certain health risks, often as a side-effect of the mental risks and sedentary lifestyle that it encourages. Some of the most common health risks include weakened vision, obesity, sleep problems, neck, and back pain.

    Added to this physical health risks is the risk of behavior problems and violence which is often the result of exposure to violent shows and games.

  • Lack of Life Balance

    Studies have shown that certain types of fast-paced media may be truly addictive, resulting in the same addictive compulsions as drugs. Both the amount of screen time, as well as the type of screen time, can have a big effect on how a child (or adult) engages with the world around them.

    When someone is addicted to a screen, it can be difficult to make time for play, exercise, socializing and even work. In many instances, the addiction can be all-consuming even when not in front of a screen, with the mind obsessed about the game while trying to hold a regular conversation.

    This lack of balance can have negative health, mental and relationship effects down the line.

  • Strained Relationships

    Perhaps one of the most under-rated risks associated with too much screen time is how much it costs an individual’s personal relationships. Many need couple counseling and the like to work through feelings of disconnect and worthlessness.

    In addition, gaming is known to have qualities that are indicative of manipulation. Video games are known to trigger a reaction in the brain that is similar to that of gambling. This obsessive mentality consumes a person’s life, often at the expense of those that love and support them.

  • Mental Health Struggles

    There are several ways that screen addiction and gaming can lead to mental health disorders. First, peer pressure is a trend across social media that is consumed by the screen. Social media has a strong association with lowered self-esteem and this has a knock-on effect with depression.

    Another serious concern is the solitary state that screen time encourages. When a child or teen spends hours playing games, scrolling on their phone or watching television, they are eliminating the chance of social interaction.

    While this is not necessarily a problem in small doses, the extended hours can have more serious effects such as withdrawal, moodiness, and depression. Often, mental health counseling is needed to journey through these struggles.

Signs of A Screen/Gaming Disorder

Research in the field is still new, and the hope is that people become aware of screen consumption rather than scared of it. If you are concerned that either yourself or your loved one has a screen or gaming addiction, then you can look out for the following signs.

  • Lack of control over gaming habits
  • Prioritizing screen time and gaming over other interest and activities
  • Consistently gaming, despite negative effects
  • Disruption in family life, social life, personal life, work, and education
  • Lack of control over screen time
  • Screens and gaming preoccupying thoughts

Final Thoughts on Gaming and Screen Time

Research on the effects of screen time is still a hot topic and one that has garnered a lot of attention. Screen time and gaming in itself is not harmful. However, the abuse of the screen and not monitoring the content on the screen carries potential negative side effects.

In the meantime, if you find that yourself or a loved one are struggling with screen addiction, then you can give us a call at (954) 797-5222 for help in working through the struggle.

Garry Smith

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