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NOTE: There is another Zen Tech show scheduled next Wednesday 3-29-17
The entire show, including the callers toward the end, focused on addiction to the internet and to electronic gadgets. Jordan led the interview of George Lynn & Cynthia Johnson authors of the book “Breaking The Trance. A Practical Guide For Parenting The Screen-Dependent Child”. I’ll just outline the highlights of the show. For details please listen to the audio.
George Lynn is a mental health counselor from Bellevue Washington who pioneered the use of psychotherapy for people with neropsychological issues and who authored 5 books on parenting children with behavioral problems.
Cynthia Johnson is the founding director of The Venture Program at Bellevue College, the nation’s first degree program for student with learning & intellectual disabilities. She’s also a therapeutic tutor of challenged students in pre-kindergarten, elementary and secondary school.
George will be at a local town hall meeting at the Nevada Theater April 18 6pm to 9pm. Parents, teachers and mental health professionals should make an effort to attend, Jordan said.
Jordan asked Cynthia to name some typical behavioral or learning challenges that are the marks of screen dependence in children.
– High disorganization
– Apathy toward school
– Failure or low performance in school
– Sleep deprivation
– Memory issues
– Reading & writing issues
– Issues in problem solving & critical thinking skills
George was asked to describe the nature of screen dependence. He said that games are designed to create a dependence. They are created to have what he called compulsion loops to give kid the feeling of not wanting to break away but to stay engaged. He said that once the kid is hooked into playing a game, the brain releases adrenaline — the neurochemical of excitement that’s also perceived as pleasure. Eventually, the brain expresses dopamine that locks in the need to stay engaged with the activity. Adrenaline goes up, dopamine goes up, pleasure goes up and then, as the compulsion loops kick in, frustration begins, bringing on the need to master the game. The kid can spend up to 8 hours with recreational screen media, which includes social media.
Cynthia said kids are a great marketing target for these electronic baby sitters. George said he’s talked to some Microsoft people who told him that the child’s brain normally thinks at about 600 words per minute, but the games are designed to overclock the brain, in terms of stimulus response, to about 1000 words per minute. In the long run that creates brain exhaustion and a whole variety of psychiatric symptoms that go along with that. He said that kids need to learn self control, with the help of the parents.
Cynthia said that some students find school boring because it doesn’t provide the stimulus the screen-dependent child had gotten used to.
Glenn asked if the adoption of digital devices in schools contributes to the problem. Cynthia said it does and some parents produce printed material for their kids so they won’t focus on using a device. She said that there are other workarounds.
Cynthia said that kid with autistic spectrum disorder may be more at risk for screen dependence. These kid tend to be more socially isolated and the parents think the kid’s screen time is better than no social contact at all, so they tend to let their kids indulge.
Paul asked what a parent should do to limit or block the use of screen media. George said there should be a plan. There should be rules as to content and times of access. There are some good apps to monitor the usage of screen media. <He didn’t mention specific ones.>
Jordan brought up the issue, and Cynthia confirmed, that kids get manipulative and parents don’t know what to do. Having a plan for screen time does much to mitigate the situation, Cynthia said.
Parents sometimes feel a sense of guilt that they have a problem with a screen-dependent child at home and they are reluctant to communicate with other parents. George said this is a huge problem. He said support groups could help. Many parents themselves use electronic devices to work after hours and that makes it hard to set an example for the kids.
Rick called. He has 2 15-yearolds and has had battles over the use of electronic devices. He wondered if there are subliminal messages embedded in the screen images that contribute to screen addiction. George said that the media itself is what’s addictive. And also, the blue tint of screens tends to keep people awake and interferes with sleep. He’s not aware of any subliminal messages. They’re not needed to make the applications a huge hit.
Clay called. He has no TV, no cell phone and no computer. He confirmed what was said earlier, the kids seem to be in charge.
George reiterated that self-control takes a while to develop and the parents can help their kids by setting limits.
George said that too much recreational screen media sabotages identity development. Kids go thru predictable stages of maturity to adulthood. You don’t want a kid to get stuck at a particular stage because they don’t get out enough in the real world.
Don called. He’s taught <sp> at CSU in Sacramento for 17 years and in the last 10 years he’s noticed more inattention and distraction in his classes. He thinks the factors discussed today have contributed to the situation where students are incapable of 15 minutes of sustained critical thinking. He characterized it as a disaster.
George concluded by saying that parents can take back the authority and that they shouldn’t give up.
Last Updated 9:54 PM 3-22-2017