The Internet has so much to offer us. We have access to endless knowledge, grocery delivery, streaming movies, and online classes. There is so much on offer, though, it can be hard to know when to say when. Screen addiction can creep up on us. This has been especially true during the lockdown. Many of us, adults and kids alike, have found themselves retreating to a screen to self-medicate during a difficult time.
What Makes Screen Addiction so Hard to Break?
In today’s connected society, it is hard to go cold turkey. Many of us need a screen for work. Classes are online. Our phones are never far from us. Our brains find screen entertainment pleasurable and can increase the amount of dopamine available while we watch. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that increases communication between cells and allows us to feel heightened pleasure. When we stop watching and the dopamine decreases, we may feel a “let down” as our brain chemistry restablizes.
Is Screen Addiction Real Addiction?
There is a lot of contradictory information surrounding screen addiction. Screen addiction is not an official diagnosis. Just because a person spends a lot of time on a screen, doesn’t mean they are addicted. An addiction happens when one becomes physically or psychologically dependent on an activity, substance, or person. It resists moderation and increases over time. The hallmark of addiction is the damage it causes in interpersonal relationships. Here are a few other common signs of addiction:
- Changes in personality
- A Lack of concern for personal hygiene or basic self care
- Extreme irritability when the addictive item is withdrawn
- Forgetting to eat or hydrate during an addictive activity
While this may not be an official affliction, we can use our knowledge of other addictions to tell if our, or our children’s, use is unhealthy. If anyone in our family is experiencing screen addiction, it may be time for a screen detox.
Steps to a Screen Detox
- Identify screen time “have-to’s” such as work or class.
- Block out times of the day for “no screen time.”
- Put an increased focus on physical activity and accompanying rest periods.
- Be especially aware of nutritional support to ease the psychological “let down.”
- Be kind to the person detoxing. They may become unpleasant to be around as they experience extreme irritability.
What Can Screen Use be Masking?
Extreme screen use can be a coping mechanism. A user can be using the screen to self-medicate for a variety of reasons. If your child is leaning on screen time a little too much for your comfort, you may want to come in for a visit. We know depression and ADD can sometimes manifest as hyperfocus on entertainment. We’d love to partner with you in making sure your child is healthy in every way. And, if you haven’t had too much screen time, we offer virtual visits, as well.