QUIET isn’t the same as CALM
Video games and electronic screen time keeps a child quiet. But inside the child is often agitated, anxious, even frantic and stressed, – and anything but calm. What happens is that electronic games affect the brain’s reward system, causing a huge increase of levels of dopamine, which creates the sense of craving, and triggering the release of opioids, the neurohormones that produce pleasant sensations, so we don’t feel any stress or pain. In this blissful state there is no awareness of anything being a problem,including boredom, nothing that would need thinking about. In fact while the child goes on-line, the ‘thinking brain’ (or neo-cortex) goes off-line. But the flashing lights and exciting sounds build up high levels of tension in the body, and since there is no movement, none of this tension gets released. This increases the sense of stress … and a vicious cycle of more craving to activate this ‘sweet spot’ of the nervous system, – just as with sweets or other junk foods. It is good to know that opioids are also produced by movement and touch, by interactions that are lively and fun, so we can help the child to find things to do and not to become a victim of the vicious cycle of screen addictions.