Community Issues

How Can Parents Best Monitor Screen Time, Risk of "Digital Addiction?"

Some experts suggest seeking moderation of screen time, rather than removal.


"Digital addiction," or addiction to social media, video games or screen time, is a growing concern among parents in the 21st century.

But according to a new commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, parents should rethink how they attempt to control their child's usage.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute, says that screen time is something that should be handled in moderation, as akin to responsible alcohol use for adults, rather than something that should be avoided entirely, such as heroin usage.

Dr. Christakis argues that, similar to adults who abstain entirely from alcohol or who are heavy consumers of alcohol tend to be in poorer health than those who consume a moderate amount, adolescents with heavy and no social media usage have diminished mental health compared with those with moderate usage. This phenomenon is known in research as the 'inverted U' result.

There are obvious, practical reasons why children have exposure to screens on a daily basis. Ipads are becoming more and more common in classrooms, and homework assignments are likely to involve computer and Internet usage. Therefore, Dr. Christakis argues, the time spend on a device is less important than how that time is spent.

Additionally, there are less obvious benefits a child can derive from time spent online, including social media and video games. Dr. Christakis points to the example that an LGBTQ teen can find a an invaluable resource in an online community that provides support and understanding. However, overexposure to social media can lead to body dysmorphia or eating disorders for teens who are insecure about their looks.

For more information and resources on regulating your child's media consumption, you can click here.

Of course, the issue goes beyond just parents and their own children. Dr. Christakis concludes his commentary by urging social media companies and other conglomerates to share user data with scientists, to help the latter understand digital media use by children and develop effective measures to prevent and counteract 'digital addiction' in children.

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