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Posts tagged mental health
The Effects of Screen Time on Kids

The recent question of concern considers how all that screen time impacts the physical structure of your kids' brains, as well as their emotional development and mental health. The National Institutes of Health hopes to answer this question by studying the adolescent brain development. Anderson Cooper, correspondent of CBS 60 Minutes, interviewed different researchers to get a better understanding the research we are looking for.

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 The first wave of data found significant differences in the brains of nine and ten-year-olds who spend more than seven hours a day of screen time, compared to those who don’t. These brains showed premature thinning of the cortex, the part of the brain that processes information from the five senses. The study also revealed that kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens got lower scores on thinking and language tests. While this research may take a significant amount of time to complete, researchers hope to answer not only how much time are they spending, how they perceive it impacting them, but also what are some of the outcomes. And that will get at the question of whether there's addiction or not.

 Dr. Dimitri Chrisrakis at Seattle Children's Hospital, speaks on the recommendation for parents to, "avoid digital media use, except video chatting, in children younger than 18 to 24 months." In his 60 Minutes talk, “Toddlers need laps more than apps”, Dr. Chrisrakis warns that babies playing with iPads do not transfer what they learn from the iPad to the real world. This is a critical period for human brain development. Apps on iPads with lights, colors, and sounds are more stimulating to an infant than an original toy. His research proves that kids are less likely to put down an iPad while playing with it, than they are to put down a toy. Tristan Harris, former Google manager, explains that phones and apps are being designed to capture and keep kids' attention. Apps use specific techniques to get people to use the product for as long as possible.

 Until recently, it was impossible to see what happens inside a young brain when a person is focused on a mobile device. Dr. Bagot is among scientists who believe screen time stimulates the release of the brain chemical dopamine, which has a pivotal role in cravings and desire. The idea is that people are more likely to continue checking their devices in order to keep the good feelings. Teenagers now spend on average four and a half hours a day on their phones. All that time has resulted in a fundamental shift in how a generation of American kids acts and thinks. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University has spent years combining surveys of people since the 1960s. She discovered sudden changes in the behavior and mental health of teens born in 1995 and later, the first generation to spend their entire adolescences with smartphones. Twenge found that the percentage of teens who reported drinking or having sex fell. But the percentage who said they were lonely or depressed spiked. It's possible other factors may have played a role, but Twenge says she wasn't able to identify any that correlated as closely as the growing popularity of the smartphone and social media.

 It is difficult to say whether it's the specific things that teens are doing on their phones that's the problem. Or whether it’s just the amount of time that they're spending on their phones that is the problem. With new technological shifts, people become excited and amused without realizing the consequences until years later when it’s too late. Tech companies have created ways to monitor screen time or set time restrictions on apps, but most parents aren’t aware of these tools. Twenge believes smartphones, as well as most devices, are great when they are used for the right purpose. It is the excessive use of apps and social media that cause harm. She states, “it should be a tool that you use. Not a tool that uses you.”

 The purpose of this article is not to frighten parents, but to educate them on the effects screen time can have on kids. This is not to say remove electronics completely but beware of what part of technology is actually benefiting you, and what part is harming you. If your child is using an excessive amount of screen time, learn more about the tools that can help prevent this future addiction.

If you have questions about children development and the effect of screen time please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. 

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD 

Reference: Cooper, Anderson. “Groundbreaking Study Examines Effects of Screen Time on Kids.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 9 Dec. 2018, www.cbsnews.com/news/groundbreaking-study-examines-effects-of-screen-time-on-kids-60-minutes/

5 Proven Benefits of Play

Summer has come to an end and children are back in school. Back to school means waking up early, attending school, working on homework, doing extracurricular activities, and then off to bed early. This routine is beneficial for a growing child, but who is setting aside time for play? With all of these important obligations, are children getting the time they need to let loose and play? “5 Proven Benefits of Play,” written by Anya Kamenetz, reminds parents, teachers, and pediatricians of the importance of play and how it can help the development of children.  

1.     Play is essential for healthy brain development.

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Just as adults use puzzles and crosswords to exercise our brains, children can use play to help develop their brains. Brain-derived neurotrophic factors, or BDNF, allows the brain to grow and develop healthy connections. Studies have proven that play, such as roughhousing and tussling around, can change the expression of genes to increase the production of BDNF. 30 minutes a day of this kind of play can encourage proper development of the brain.

2.     Play reduces obesity and associated diseases.

Just as adults go to the gym to stay in shape, children need to exercise and play in order to stay in shape. A child who plays a lot at a young age, the more likely they are to be active and healthy adults. At least one hour of play outdoors has proven signification improvement in body mass index. A study showed that “children who actively play outside are 42 percent less likely to be overweight.”

3.     Play helps children manage stress and even recover from trauma.

Most adults are aware of the term “self-care”. Practicing self-care is a way to increase your health and well-being. Similarly, a study showed that children who play regularly, one-on-one with a teacher, taking their own lead, improves behavior and reduces cortisol, a stress hormone. The connection built between the child and teacher is known as “banking time,” the building of a warm, relationship.

4.     Play helps families bond.

Just as “banking time” builds relationships with teachers, it also builds relationships with families. “Hirsh-Pasek points out ‘the conversation with kids that come out in play are brain-builders.’” Playing allows children to regulate their emotions by “getting on the same page” as others they are playing with. This connection can help children in their future when they are faced with difficult situations.

5.     Play contributes to academic skills.

When children play using their imagination, they are developing their language development, general knowledge, and intrinsic motivation. This development leads to improved test scores. By connecting objects, words, and feelings, children are building STEM learning skills, which will benefit their education.  

Life can be busy and overwhelming at times. This blog is a reminder to let your child play. Not only does it release energy so bed time is easier, but it has many proven benefits for your child ranging from brain development, social skills, and academic improvement.

If you have questions about children development please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. 

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Kamenetz, Anya. “5 Proven Benefits Of Play.” NPR, NPR, 31 Aug. 2018, www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/08/31/642567651/5-proven-benefits-of-play.

Healthy Mind Platter
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With technology use increasing day by day, we are faced with the fear of a diminished sense of self. These psychological problems can be related to whether our mind is healthy. The Healthy Mind Platter, created by David Rock and Dr. Daniel J. Siegel provides a baseline metric on what a healthy mind constitutes.

Based off of the concept of a healthy meal plan, David Rock and Dr. Daniel J. Siegel point out that it is essential for us to spend our day doing seven crucial things that will result in optimal brain matter. Doing these seven things will lead our mind to “integrate” which refers to the different parts of our brain connecting. This will, in turn, provide us with optimum mental health as well as stronger connections with people and the world around us.

The seven daily essential mental activities for the Healthy Mind Platter:

  • Focus Time: By focusing on tasks in a goal-orientated way, we take on challenges that create opportunities for us to make deep connections in the brain.

  • Play Time: By allowing ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, we help make new connections in the brain.

  • Connecting Time: By connecting with other people, ideally in person, and by taking the time to appreciate our connections to the natural world around us, we activate and reinforce the brain’s relational circuitry.

  • Physical Time: By moving our bodies, we strengthen the brain in many ways.

  • Time In: By quietly reflecting internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts, we help to integrate the brain better.

  • Down Time: By doing something that requires no focus, without any specific goal, and letting our mind wander or just relax, we help the brain to recharge.

  • Sleep Time: By giving the brain the rest it needs, we consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.

Feel like you could use a little boost? Contact us for more information on the Healthy Mind platter or for other assistance on Anxiety or ADHD.

~Written by Mahida Saifi and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: “The Healthy Mind Platter” http://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/healthy_mind_platter/