Social Media, Apps And Gaming Changes Children's Brains In Not So Good Ways

Mar 7, 2019

Credit KPCW

Ecker Hill Middle School students and parents will have a chance to learn about how electronics affects the human brain. Research shows the addictive impacts of using electronics on children’s neurological and emotional health.

Dr. Christy Kane will lead the presentation next Thursday from 6 to 8 pm at Ecker Hill Middle School.  She says the American College of Pediatrics published a report that less than five percent of our kids get appropriate physical exercise. Social media and gaming are thought to be one of the causes of the increase in obesity in children.

“We actually have some reports that show the thinning of the cerebral cortex of the developing brain because we’re not going through the same kind of neurological growth patterns as the generation before because our young people spend more time in their short-term memory, neuro transmitter stimulation process of dopamine.”

The results of sedentary habits and spending so much time on electronic devices, increases obesity, anxiety, depression and suicide in young people.

“The brain when it’s overstimulated and over stressed, it produces a hormone called cortisol. And, that hormone makes it so another neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is a mood stabilizing transmitter can’t be absorbed by the brain.”

Kane says apps and games are typically designed by psychologists to make them habit forming and addictive because they play with the neurotransmitter, dopamine.

“Drugs play with the neurotransmitter, dopamine and electronics play with the same transmitter. Now, that’s a transmitter we’re supposed to have and is beneficial to our brain. But, when it’s over stimulated, the brain goes into a heightened state of hyper sensitivity. And the dangerous side of where the addiction come in at, is dopamine is an anticipatory neuro transmitter. So, we get dopamine put into the synapses of the brain when we anticipate the reception of something. So, the reason electronics can become habit forming and addictive is because of the anticipation of getting a text, getting a post, getting a like, getting a level up in the video game.”

She says without this feedback, kids wouldn’t return to the media.Kane says she’ll present all the research when she meets with parents and she’ll give them guidance in putting together a family media plan. She says no one anticipated how damaging cell phones and media devices would be for children.

“So, now we’re having to reel things back in. But they can do that if they involve the kids in the conversation. They do kind of a family media plan. I suggest they have a certain time in the morning, where the phone never comes on. They have meal times where all phones are put in a basket and not allowed. And, no cell phones, no electronic devices in the bedroom. We have research that shows we have the most sleep deprived adolescents because parents think they’ve gone to bed and they’re under their covers till three or four in the morning on their phone.”

She says parents should set the example for electronic screen time. She says no one can process all the stimulation and screen images at one time.

Dr. Christy Kane will present the interactive workshop for parents and children at Ecker Hill Middle School on March 14th from 6 to 8 pm. She’ll also hold assemblies for students and teachers during the day.