Help! My Loved One Cannot Stay Off Screens!
Many people with Autism and ADHD love screen time and there are many benefits to TV, video games, etc. These activities can be educational and even teach important life skills, but too much of a good thing can still be harmful.
With COVID-19, everyone is relying on technology more than ever. We are using technology for school, work, and play. No one can safely gather together, due to the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. That has taken away playtime with friends for many children.
Due to being stuck indoors, we feel that there isn’t much to do and are running out of things to do for fun. This has led to more screen time than the amount that is healthy. There have been an increased rate of obesity, especially with children and teenagers during the pandemic. One major factor in childhood and teenage obesity is being unable to participate in sports and being limited to where they can exercise.
The negative health effects of excessive screen time are:
- Obesity/weight gain
- Mood swings
- Inattention to the environment around you
- Missing out on important events with friends, work, family, and school.
- Neglecting household responsibilities
- Missing important deadlines with family, work, and school
Everyone needs a balance of digital and low-tech activities each day. I do not like being on screens all day and take frequent breaks from them. I also enjoy crocheting, sewing, photography, gardening and so much more, in addition to video games and TV.
Another negative effect of excessive screen time is worsening eyesight among younger people, especially young children. Excessive screen time causes eyestrain and sitting in front of screens all day strains your eyes and doing that every day isn’t good for your vision, regardless of your age.
Many children are having so much screen time that they are not developing other interests. They are not interested in going out, exercising, working, school, hobbies, and other important activities.
Signs of screen addiction are:
- Not interested in low-tech activities
- Poor performance in school or at work
- Loss of interest in school, work, family time, and social events
- Loss of interest in reading paper books and using pencil/pen and paper to express yourself and wanting to do everything on devices instead of paper
- Thinking about screen time when you aren’t on devices
- Getting agitated when devices aren’t in use or are taken away
- Excessive dreams and fantasies about content on devices
- Using devices when it isn’t appropriate to, even after being told not to
- Sleeping too little or too much because you are up too late on devices.
Some people have screen addiction so bad that they require professional help. Counseling, therapy, and treatment (both inpatient and outpatient) are available to treat screen addiction. Screen addiction is a real addiction and becoming a common problem today, but it can be treated.
The best way to treat screen addiction is to replace digital activities with low-tech activities. I cannot sit without keeping my hands busy, so I keep paper, pens, yarn/crochet hooks, and plastic canvas with me, in addition to my phone, computer, and handheld video games.
I do not play video games or be on screens every time I am out or in the company of others. I spend a lot of time writing, doing art, crafting, among other things. I get tired of screen time after a while and like to do other things too.
Activities that can replace screen time are:
- Fine art
- Reading paper books
- Writing on paper
- Walking and playing with pets
- cooking/baking with paper recipes and cookbooks
Another way to treat screen addiction is getting the entire family involved and setting ground rules about when and where screens can be used. Some good rules would be:
- No devices at the table during meals
- No devices in church or religious services
- No devices in the bedroom in the evening
- All devices get charged in a certain area at night
- No TV set in the bedroom
- No devices during family time or while eating out
- Screen time must be earned and you can only use devices for a certain amount of time that we agree on
Screen time is fun, but there needs to be a balance. Doing both digital and low-tech activities are fun! What low-tech activities do you enjoy with yourself and your family?