Longevity project: Mental health professionals speak to adverse effects of too much screen time | PostIndependent.com

Longevity project: Mental health professionals speak to adverse effects of too much screen time

No more than two hours a day recommended

PI Longevity Event

5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, Glenwood Springs Library, second-floor classroom Join the Post Independent for a live interview and Q&A session with Oyen Hoffman and Gary Schreiner, family counselors with Mountain Family Health Centers, talking about bullying, screen time, loneliness and other issues that can impact the mental well-being of children ages 3 to 12. Doors open at 5:15 p.m., event begins at 5:30. Refreshments will be served.  

Mental health care professionals cannot stress enough the importance of limiting the amount of time children spend staring at electronic device screens.

“It has a profound impact,” Mountain Family Health Centers marriage and family therapist and addiction counselor Oyen Hoffman said. “There is a whole part of their brain that will not develop if they have too much screen time.”

According to Hoffman, the creative part of a child’s brain suffers dramatically from too much time spent on tablets, watching TV and playing video games. Specifically, in young children between the ages of 3 and 12, too much screen time can equate to a child’s inability to self soothe, problem solve and deal with boredom.

“Their creativity is completely diminished because they don’t need that part of their brain if all they are doing is looking at a screen,” said Hoffman. “That part of their brain isn’t developed and they end up being really left behind.”

As a result, many mental health care providers recommend no more than two hours of screen time a day. Additionally, many of those same providers advocate for equal screen time to equal outdoor play.

“That is vital in human development,” Hoffman said of limiting screen time, not just among young children but also across virtually every age demographic. “Absolutely vital.”

Hoffman’s colleague at Mountain Family Health Centers, Dr. Gary Schreiner, who has a PhD in marriage and family therapy, also emphasized the negative toll screen time can take on child’s imagination.

“Everything is given to them right there,” Schreiner said. “The graphics, the colors, the motions – all of that – it is given to the person and it takes away from their imagination, their creativity — things they have to develop on their own.”

Too much screen time can also make it exceptionally difficult for a child when they enter a classroom setting for the first time, Schreiner explained.

Rudimentary tasks such as reading a book may prove challenging for a child used to playing on a tablet for hours on end.

“There is no stimulation for them. They have all of these video games and then they go to a classroom and it’s boring,” Schreiner said. “It really does hurt the academics, especially with the younger kids, and I think it wires their brains a little bit differently.”

Schreiner explained how companies that produce these devices do an excellent job of marketing them to children.

“I am not convinced that is the best thing for kids,” Schreiner said. “Instead of creating their own imagination and things that help with brain development, it is just given to them.”


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