Electronic Screen Syndrome

Over the years, we have listened to many parents share heartbreaking stories about their children. These stories range from unexplainable failing grades and inability to focus to total defiance of authority figures and fits of uncontrollable rage. Unfortunately, stories of angry and aggressive behavior are becoming far too common. Many children are part of a growing “epidemic of misdiagnosed mental disorders” with “ADHD diagnoses rising nearly 800% since 1980,” (Dunckley, 2012). Dr. Victoria Dunckley of Los Angeles, California has been studying the over-diagnosis of mental disorders in children for the last ten years. She has concluded that “the two most over-diagnosed disorders in the pediatric population are, by far and away, childhood bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), both of which can lead to taking medication with significant side effects,” (2012). Wanting to know why these diagnoses have risen so dramatically, Dr. Dunckley posed the question, “Might something environmental be to blame?” Through several years of research, Dr. Dunckley presented the idea of “electronic Screen Syndrome”. She stated that she believes the “unnaturally stimulating nature of an electronic screen- irrespective of the content it brings- has ill effects on our mental and physical health,” (2012). Due to their over-stimulating nature, screens put stress on the nervous system which can cause people to self-regulate and manage stress less effectively. This can cause outward symptoms such as “irritable or depressed mood, excessive tantrums, low frustration tolerance, poor self-regulation, oppositional-defiant behaviors, poor sportsmanship, social immaturity, poor eye contact, insomnia or non-restorative sleep, learning difficulties, and poor short-term memory” (Dunckley, 2012). All of these symptoms are issues that mimic symptoms of ADHD or other psychiatric disorders. Fortunately, Dr. Dunckley suggests a solution that she has found to be extremely effective and that our team at Academics Plus has seen benefits from as well. She suggests an “electronic fast” in which the individual goes completely screen-free for at least 4 weeks, sometimes longer depending on the severity of symptoms. In our experience, an “electronic fast”, combined with our cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, has allowed children to become less aggressive, more focused and compliant, and happier and more confident overall.

Dunckley, V. (2014). Electronic screen syndrome: an unrecognized disorder? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201207/electronic-screen-syndrome-unrecognized-disorde