Brain science demonstrates that the brain becomes what the brain does. If we train the brain to require constant stimulation and constant flickering lights, changes in sound and camera angle, or immediate feedback, such as video games can provide, then when the child lands in the classroom where the teacher doesn’t have a million-dollar-per-episode budget, it may be hard to get children to sustain their attention.
- Douglas Gentile, ISU associate professor of psychology
That quote says it all. The brain becomes what the brain does. The way I have said it in the past is that the human body and brain are always in training, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. If you run 10 miles per day, you are training to be a runner. If your child reads and plays with toys and friends all day, she is training to be smart and fit and adaptable. If your child watches TV 4 or 6 hours per day, she is training to sit and stare and be sedentary and anti-social. Look at your child now. What is she doing? That is what she is getting good at.
Psychologists at Iowa State University have found:
that children who exceeded the two hours per day of screen time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be above average in attention problems.
“There isn’t an exact number of hours when screen time contributes to attention problems, but the AAP recommendation of no more than two hours a day provides a good reference point,” said Edward Swing, an Iowa State psychology doctoral candidate and lead researcher in the study. “Most children are way above that. In our sample, children’s total average time with television and video games is 4.26 hours per day, which is actually low compared to the national average.”
What do those numbers mean? Children who watch more than 2 hours of TV or “screen time”, which includes movies and video games, are twice as likely to have attention problems. So if a child has attention problems, and watches more than 2 hours of TV or Video Games per day, there is a 50% chance that those problems are caused by the TV.
The lesson here is clear. Cut back on your child’s sitting and staring time per day. And if your child is showing signs of attention problems in school, cut the cord.