It’s only been in the recent past that electronic screen syndrome or ess has become a topic of wide discussion. There are various aspects of this condition that are so troubling.
Even the signs of this condition are not straightforwardly visible, so to be diagnosed directly. Thus, before understanding how to treat it, let’s know what ESS is.
About Electronic Screen Syndrome
Electronic screen syndrome or ESS is an uncategorized disorder that the modern generation is suffering from mostly. The term was coined by Dr. Victoria Dunckley, who has been studying the patterns of psychiatric disturbances in children.
ESS can be defined as a condition in which the nervous system in kids gets overstimulated due to excessive screen exposure. The impact of this is seen in the focus, mood, and behavior of the child. This syndrome can not only occur in teenagers but toddlers as well.
Any kind of digital device can cause this syndrome like computers, mobile phones, iPads, TV, etc. The disturbance actually begins much before addiction takes full form. Studies show that the nervous system of the child starts getting over-stimulated as the intensity of screen exposure increases.
As a result, the brain falls prey to chronic stress that in turn leads to behavioral and learning issues. Exposure to electronic screens causes shifts in the nervous system that can activate either the fight or flight mode. Essentially, the biological systems of the affected child get disorganized and deregulated.
A shocking reveal of the recent studies shows that above 90% of children start operating devices at two years of age. Another observation states that kids of 2-6 years of age have a daily screen time of 2-4 hours. Now, the result of this becomes visible in the mental and visual space of the affected children. The effects start taking shape as soon as the child begins using the device. Changes take place in the brain that finally leads to hyperarousal and overstimulation.
Signs to Diagnose Electronic Screen Syndrome
If you want to ascertain that a child has ess condition, then here are a few things you must observe:
- The child becomes over-excited too soon and too often.
- The child tends to show signs of disorganization, opposition, and disobedience.
- And the child has a hard time getting off the screen at any cost.
- The child shows very immature behavior, which affects his ability to make friends or talk to people generally.
- The child shows no interest but to remain glued to any electronic screen.
- And the child has started to or is underperforming at school with failing grades.
- The child starts becoming highly inattentive to everything around and becomes very lazy and uninterested.
- The child chooses virtual communication over face-to-face contact.
- And the child gets raging attacks.
- The child starts remaining unhappy quite often or constantly.
- The child breaks down or over-reacts over minor inconveniences.
- And the child starts throwing tantrums when asked to stop using the devices.
- The child has dilated pupils after their exposure to screens.
- The child finds it difficult to make eye contact after seeing screens.
Now, if you see more than one or all of these signs occurring in your children, then it is a clear case of ESS. As many signs visible in the child, the higher is the risk.
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Common Risk Factors of Electronic Screen Syndrome
While the ESS condition is expanding its reach among the little children, there are several who are at a higher risk. Here is a list of certain common risk factors that increase the chances of ESS in children:
- Small age
- Male gender
- Sensory dysfunction
- Addiction proneness
- Psychosocial stressors
- Behavioral disorder (e.g. Autism, hyperactivity disorder, attention deficit, etc.)
- Food sensitiveness or allergies
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Common Symptoms of Electronic Screen Syndrome
Electronic screen technology casts unthinkable impacts on humans, and the following ESS symptoms are living proof. The ESS condition makes the children get hyper-aroused by increasing the dopamine levels in their bodies. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes any person feel good upon release. The same element helps to push the affected children into this addiction in this situation.
The general symptoms of ESS in children are a direct effect of the hyper-aroused nervous system. The impact is mostly seen in the general behavior, social behavior, mood, and mental status of the affected children. The result of all this is poor communication abilities and slowed overall progress.
Here Are the Symptoms of ESS in Children:
- Poor focus on things
- No interest in anything except electronic devices
- Little to zero interest in imaginary or creative activities
- Always irritated
- Constant mood swings
- Disorganized lifestyle
- Disobedient and rude behavior towards everyone
- Get frustrated very easily
- Sleep disorders
- Learning difficulties
- Little to no self-control
- Gets angry very soon
- Get tearful and cranky upon disapproval of demands
- Meltdowns in unexpected and minor situations
- Behaving with friends in school and neighborhood
- Not completing their school activities
Since ESS has gained ground as a disorder only recently, researchers are still trying to find its concrete symptoms. For now, it is understandable that the ESS symptoms can look much like those of any common neurological condition. However, the differentiating aspect of the ESS symptoms is that they wither once the electronic screen exposure is cut off.
Some Common Myths Related To Electronic Devices
While many events affirm the usefulness of electronic devices with screens for children, they hide the complete reality. We are going to break some myths related to screens here so that you can decide if and how to use them justifiably.
● Myth- Gadgets Are Good for the Development of Children.
Well, more than enough research has been done to show that this is not true at all.
● Myth- Screens Can Be Used for Education Purposes.
The benefits or usefulness of educational technology haven’t been proven yet. Thus, let’s assume for now that screens only have harmful repercussions.
● Myth- ebooks Are Equivalent to Paper Books.
eBooks actually impact the appropriate literacy comprehension and development by affecting deep reading skills.
● Myth- Note-making on a Laptop is Equally Beneficial.
Actually, it adversely impacts recalling and integration capabilities when it comes to taking exams.
● Myth- Moderate Screen use is Good.
The electronic screen becomes like a stimulant for the kids that they can’t resist. Thus, any amount of screen time will have an inevitable adverse impact.
Types of Screen Time – Active and Passive
There is another aspect of ESS where electronic screen time is divided into active and passive. Active screen time involves the active engagement of the user with the electronic device like using the touch screen, keyboard, motion sensors, etc. On the other hand, passive screen time involves no direct engagement like watching any screen, TV, desktop, laptop, etc.
Some studies have shown passive screen time to be healthy to neutral for children. However, as per the tenets of the ESS condition, there are adverse effects of all types of screen times and activities. Any kind of screen exposure leads to abnormal stimulation of the mind and nervous system.
There are many side effects of active screen time, including hyper-arousal and obsessively long-term addiction. Moreover, excessive screen time causes health issues, including sleep disorders, obesity, delayed cognitive skill development, etc. It is surprising but true that even regulated screen time can cause overstimulation and dysregulation in children.
Electronic Fast for Controlling Electronic Screen Syndrome
One very innovative way to tackle the menace of ESS is the concept of Electronic Fast. This concept involves a complete cut-off from screens for 4 weeks at least. There has to be a break from every kind of electronic device that has screens like computers, TVs, mobile phones, consoles, kindle, etc.
To balance the effect, the affected child has to be exposed to more outdoor and fun offline activities. Playing games, sports, etc., will distract the child. Even special therapy can be given simultaneously to the kids for calming the deeper impacts like aggression, anger, etc.
Electronic Fast has proven to be a very effective solution, as testified by the positive response of families who tried. The method had a calming effect on the nervous system of the child. The absence of an electronic screen allows the brain to rest deep, the body clock to re-establish, and hormones to balance with brain chemistry. The result is the child sleeping, resting, and behaving better.
Thus, electronic fast is basically brain recharging. While physical activity surely helps, interpersonal communication through hugs, touch therapy, and emotion sharing also helps a lot.
Tips for Parents to Deal with Electronic Screen Syndrome
Screens inhibit the development of a child in unimaginable ways. It jeopardizes everything that is needed for the process like movement, conversations, visual contact, nature exposure, stimulations, expressions, etc. To save children from such devastating impact, parents can use the following tips:
- Establish screen time regulations. You can even totally evict electronic screen devices from the child’s routine.
- You can use third-party applications for regulating screen exposure and filtering the watch patterns of the child. Apps like Kidslox can help a lot in controlling the screen time of your child.
- Balance outdoor activities with screen time activities for mitigating the adverse impact.
- Don’t compare your kids’ development with others, as that can hurt their sentiments even more.
- Try to spend more time with your children and talk to them about their routines and issues.
It is important to remember that electronic screen syndrome has varying and different levels of impact on each child. The key to tackling it effectively lies in understanding the issue thoroughly and finding a befitting remedy.
Do share with us if you have any information or tips about the ESS in the comment section below.