You may have seen it in your own child – a complete overreaction and utter agitation to a request you’ve made. It took you aback, left you puzzled.
Or perhaps you’ve noticed increased sibling rivalry and shows of aggression. Does your child have an obsession with a show or game? Is there a total lack of attention when you’re talking to them? It may have given you serious pause.
Maybe you’ve even wondered if your child has a mental or mood disorder. It seems like doctors diagnose every other child these days with such a malady.
But is it always that?
What May Lie Beneath the Moodiness and Anger of Your Child?
Lamentably, many people today jump far too quickly to the conclusion that irritable and moody children must have some kind of mental health or mood condition.
The fact is, though, that an abnormally high state of arousal often causes children to become chronically moody and angry. While it’s true that some may suffer from a mental or mood disorder, the majority seems to be affected by something far different – the daily exposure to electronics.
But wait. Aren’t there a lot of good applications for computers?
Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to most things. Electronics are no exception.
Many parents are so excited and awed about what computers can do for their children, they forget reality. Even a good thing can be too much.
The plain fact is that daily screentime – even interactive screentime – can overstimulate and cause chronically high arousal levels in children. This hyperarousal affects your child’s memory and ability to make associations and applications, which then often leads to them struggling academically and socially.
The Physiological Mechanisms Affected by Electronic Screen Interaction
Consider why electronics tend to disturb bodily functions and cause poor sleep and focus, extra stress, and insensitivity.
- Screentime disrupts and throws your child’s body clock off balance. Because the light from screen devices mimics daylight, it interrupts the signal that tells the body it’s time to sleep. That disturbance of the body’s clock causes imbalances in other hormones as well as inflammation in the brain. Additionally, high arousal levels from electronics use also interfere with deep sleep and diminish the body’s ability to heal.
- Screentime produces stress reactions in your child. Changes in brain chemistry and hormone levels can not just increase irritability, they can also cause depression. Plus, the constant firing of neural pathways created by hyperarousal suppresses the function of the brain’s area that regulates mood.
- Screentime overloads your child’s sensory system. High visual and cognitive input from electronics leads to poor focus and attention and the inability to process information correctly. Small things become huge issues and lead to anger and meltdowns – the body’s coping mechanism to “raise” low mental reserves.
- Screentime makes the reward system of your child’s brain less sensitive. Rewarding screen interaction releases an enormous amount of dopamine, the feel-good chemical. However, when ongoing stimulation overuses the brain’s reward system it becomes less and less sensitive to dopamine. Eventually, your child’s brain requires more and more of the chemical to reach the same levels of pleasure as before.
Is It Time for a Reset?
If you’ve noticed your child being unusually moody and angry, it may be time for a reset.
Believe it or not, a total screentime reset – eliminating all electronics use for several weeks – can restore your child’s physiological, mental, and emotional balance. And that helps them to be a calmer, stronger, and happier person.
Yes, you may think it’s crazy to take such a drastic measure. But only a complete reset will allow your child’s nervous system to benefit fully.
And once your child’s brain is reset, you can figure out how much screentime they can handle without falling back into the same behaviors.