Umoja Outreach Foundation

Screen Addiction and How to Break it by Encouraging Sport

It seems that as the years go by, tablets and phones end up in the
hands of younger and younger children, their eyes glued to the tiny moving
characters on their screens. Video games, tablets, computers and iPhones
have come to occupy every waking moment of children’s time and energy,
leaving them addicted to the adrenaline and serotonin boosts they feel when
winning a game or watching a video. Especially with the pandemic leaving
children dependent on computers to go to school, the compounding effect of
social isolation has increased the likelihood of children developing Screen
Dependency Disorder.

According to Family Life and Child Development specialist Claudette Avelino-Tandoc, the increase of screen time can lead to many behavioural and physical effects such as anxiety, feelings of loneliness, insomnia, headaches, weight gain and back pain. In the long term, these effects can manifest into more severe consequences such as brain damage. Many studies have shown that children with severe screen dependency disorder have lost brain tissue in the frontal lobe, striatum and insula. These parts of the brain are important in planning and organization, instructing us to suppress socially unacceptable impulses, and in the capacity to develop compassion and empathy.

Of course devices and gadgets themselves are not bad, however it is the way in which children (and adults) utilize these tools can evolve into dangerous and destructive devices that leave long lasting effects on the brain. Again, especially now after two years of social isolation and excessive screen time, symptoms of screen dependency may emerge in children and adults. Some of these symptoms include:
1. Loss of interest in other activities
2. Using screen time to boost mood
3. Physical symptoms like headaches, blurry eyes, foggy brain, obesity and sleep issues
4. Behavioural symptoms like tantrums, difficulty solving problems, and stunted emotional skills

Screen dependency is essentially an epidemic, one that will continue to manifest as technology continues to develop and advance. So how does one mitigate the impact of such an addiction in our children and in ourselves? Reducing screen time and encouraging ‘screen-free’ time where physical activity is prioritized can mitigate the physical and behavioral impacts of screen dependency. A new study conducted at the University of Helsinki reports that getting about 1 hour of physical activity a day at age 11 can reverse the effects of obesity due to screen addiction and heavy screen usage by the time the child is 14. Of the 4600 children involved in the study, researchers concluded a link between digital usage, weight gain and physical activity. Although more research is required to understand how much digital usage leads to obesity in children, this study, as well as many others, show that any activity is better than no activity at all.

It has been a long 2 years for us all, especially on children and kids who had to abandon their routines and social life in exchange for online school and zoom classes. It’s now becoming more safe for kids to return to sport and their previous activities. Let UMOJA help with getting your kids back on track with their activities and passion for sport. Join us this year in Richmond, Virginia July 1st to 3rd and let’s get kids off their tablets on back on the field! Enjoy screen-free family fun at Kings Dominion where there is something fun for everyone.

We hope to see you and your families out in Richmond very soon!!