Node Smith, ND

How vs How Much

Many parents and caregivers are asking the question:

“How much screen time is too much?”

According to a recent study1 conducted at the University of Michigan, this may be the wrong question. The study suggests that how a child uses a device is far more important than how much a child uses the device. The time spent on a device actually doesn’t tell us anything about the emotional, social, or developmental problems that may coincide with an individual’s use. It really is no different than how we look at drug or alcohol addiction; the amount can be far different from person to person, but when there is an addictive process occurring, the signs of the addiction will often be very similar.

Kids Using Media in Unhealthy Ways have problems with Conduct, Relationships, and Emotional Dysfunction

Sarah Domoff, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development said that “what matters most is whether screen use causes problems in other areas of life or has become an all-consuming activity.” This research is unique because it looks at screen use in children from 4-11 years of age, a population that has been overshadowed by adolescent screen use research. It was largely seen that kids who use media in unhealthy ways have problems with conduct, relationships, and experience emotional dysfunction.

Here is the list of warning signs for parents and clinicians which came out of the study (many are the same, or similar, to warning signs for other forms of addiction):

Unsuccessful Control: It is hard for child to stop using screen media.
Loss of Interest: Screen media is the only thing that seems to motivate child.
Preoccupation: Screen media is all child seems to think about.
Psychosocial Consequences: Child’s screen media use interferes with family activities.
Serious Problems Due to Use: Child’s screen media use causes problems for the family.
Withdrawal: Child becomes frustrated when he/she cannot use screen media.
Tolerance: The amount of time child wants to use screen media keeps increasing.
Deception: Child sneaks using screen media.
Escape/Relieve Mood: When child has had a bad day, screen media seems to be the only thing that helps him/her feel better.


Image Copyright: <a href=’’>jevanto / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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