child development

Screen Dependency Disorder Is Real, and It May Be Damaging Your Child’s Brain

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How much screen time kids should or shouldn’t be getting is a conversation more and more parents are having these days. Mobile devices have become a bigger part of our daily lives. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids between the ages of 2-5 have no more than an hour of screen time a day. They recommend that kids 18 months and younger don’t have any at all. Some parents follow this recommendation, while others adjust screen time exposure based on what works in their family. But new research on Screen Dependency Disorder, or SDD, may cause many parents to rethink the amount of time their kids spend on the iPad.

Screen Dependency Disorder, or SDD, is a disorder that refers to “addictive” behavior brought on by too much screen time.

Dr. Aric Sigman is a U.S.-based psychologist and the author of the research paper on SDD. His research suggest that kids who are addicted to screens can exhibit classic addictive behaviors. Those can include mood swings, withdrawal symptoms, and loss of other interests. Kids with SDD routinely lie about how much time they spend on the device.

According to Family Life and Child Development specialist and Early Childhood Education consultant Claudette Avelino-Tandoc, the disorder can manifest itself in other, more noticeable symptoms, too. Children with SDD may suffer from insomnia, weight gain or loss, eyesight problems, and even back and headaches. Avelino-Tandoc identifies kids with SDD as those who reach for their devices as soon as they wake up. Kids who eat with their eyes firmly on their screen may also have SDD.

Avelino-Tandoc urges parents whose children exhibit any of these symptoms to seek out a developmental pediatrician for help.

Says Avelino-Tandoc, “They should also be alarmed when regular family routine or tasks cannot be performed by the child anymore because he or she cannot be ‘taken out’ from screen time. The parents or caregivers should supply the doctor with their child’s behavior as they have observed at home. He may also have his own set of tests and questions for both the parents and the child.”

If you’re concerned that your child might have SDD, it’s best to discuss it with your pediatrician. The research on the disorder is still in the early stages. But too much screen time is certainly something we need to be cognizant of as parents.

(Image: iStock / quintanilla)