Experts weigh in on impact of 'screen' addiction - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Experts weigh in on impact of 'screen' addiction

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Experts say there are other ways to avoid 'screen' addiction (WFSB) Experts say there are other ways to avoid 'screen' addiction (WFSB)

You wouldn’t want your child hooked on heroin or alcohol but are they becoming addicted to “screens?”

The federal government estimates that the amount of electronic media consumed through all devices is around seven hours per day.

Overwhelmed at times, many parents aim to keep their children from soaking up too many posts, ‘Likes’ or video game levels, which is a growing challenge across Connecticut, and the nation.

“It was going to the park constantly to look for Pokémon,” said parent Helen Little.

“He's on his constantly playing games, go home play videogames,” said Albert Homer.

“I think we see many children and adolescent get admitted to our hospital because it’s a direct effect of being told they can’t have their X-Box or their phone,” said Nurse Manager Elaine Pratt, of St. Francis Hospital.

Children and teens are admitted after exhibiting some kind of extreme behavior, and officials say it happens daily.

“We have patients coming in because they are assaulting their parents because their video games were taken away as a consequence,” Pratt said.

Social media is another big part of admissions.

“Often times we have children that come in or adolescents that come in that become suicidal because of some text they saw on the internet, on Facebook or on Snapchat about themselves that was, very upsetting,” Pratt said.

St. Francis has an entire staff dedicated to weening young people, whose behavior has become severe, off of the electronic media sprout.

They admit that there is no magic pill, no perfect treatment.

That’s a concern because Pratt says screen overuse has been found to affect decision making, happiness, and lead to depression and anxiety.

Making matters worse, there is no clinical diagnosis yet.

Experts say insurance won’t cover it and the most notable treatment centers in the United States are on the west coast.

“There's much more research going on in Europe and Asia than in the U.S. because there’s no real funding mechanism here,” said Dr. Nancy Petry, of UConn Health, who is part of a working group revising the textbook for non-substance related disorders.

She’s in the midst of a pilot for a clinical trial focused on child video game addiction.

She says there’s a big difference between what games do to young people and social media.

“They drop out of school, they sever relationships with friends and families,” Petry said.

Both experts feel moderation is the best antidote for screen overuse, and that parents should consider if devices are impacting their child’s social life, activities and ability to have fun, like listening to music, walking and playing sports, and being a good role model by not overusing electronics yourself.

To take part in Petry’s study, call 860-989-7105.

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