Understanding how dopamine works in the brain may help people achieve better life balance, especially when it comes to using digital devices.
That’s according to Clifford Sussman, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist based in Washington, D.C. who treats children for compulsive video game use and other screen-related mental health disorders.
Using Sussman’s concept, parents have a new way to talk with their kids about digital activities without needing the words “no”, “don’t”, or “addiction.”
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is the chemical released in your brain when you do something exciting that has an instant payoff, such as playing a thrilling video game, seeing your likes on Instagram, or clicking BUY on a nice pair of shoes. We all love that tingly feeling.
“The problem comes when you’re doing this for a really long time. Let’s say hours or even days,” says Dr. Sussman.
Over time, the constant flow of dopamine drives a person to want to repeat the exciting activity. A residual effect is feeling bored when doing other things, including academics.
“When kids binge all weekend on games, they will be more bored of their classes on Monday,” Dr. Sussman observed in this webinar for the Ross Center.
High Versus Low Dopamine Activities
To achieve a balance, Dr. Sussman suggests alternating high-producing dopamine activities (HDAs) with activities that have little dopamine kick. Continue reading
As the pandemic drags on, you need to be a durable human. Simply being resilient doesn’t cut it anymore. New findings point to why.
White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci wants our response to the COVID vaccine to be as durable as possible.
Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema says only laws with bipartisan backing will be durable.
On Joe Rogan’s podcast, New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt spoke of how “parents and teachers should be helping kids develop their innate abilities to grow and learn.” He used “antifragile.”
Lebanese-American essayist Nassim Nicholas says he coined that term because “there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile.”
But, actually—there is. Continue reading
There is lots you can do at home to help your child succeed in online school and be healthier and happier overall.
First, 8-year-old Emma changed her name to “Kitty” in the midst of a Zoom session. Another time, she tried to make her classmates laugh by showing them her bare foot. Fiddling with a glue bottle while her teacher was talking was apparently the last straw.
“We just want it to be a successful year for everyone,” the teacher said in a phone call home. The words she spoke were soothing, but her tone said otherwise. “You could hear she was upset,” recalls Emma’s mom, who herself was assigned homework. The teacher told her to clear off Emma’s desk so there’d be no further distractions.
All that in the first week of school for a kid who used her small summer allowance to pay for a math game subscription.
Last spring’s rush to online learning was understandably rife with problems. “For most, remote teaching did not work well,” contends David McKinnon, Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook University in a presentation by Children and Screens. “Kids gained little or nothing, or regressed.” This time, schools have had more time to prepare. Still, he says, “creating a good remote learning program is a very challenging task.”
Teachers will try their hardest to give students opportunities for higher-level reasoning and independent thought along with the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. What may be lost for kids are the intangibles, like being able to express their feelings, move around, and build life skills. Supplementing those at home will go a long way toward keeping kids’ spirits up and their love of learning alive.
Way back B.C. (Before Coronavirus), a chief complaint from kids about their parents went something like this: “All my mom cares about is her phone” or “My Dad doesn’t really talk to me.” For years, too many of us have been in a state of continuous partial attention. Even when someone was sobbing in front of us, we’d have one eye on our phones. But now, confined in the chaos, we have an opportunity: for a parenting Do Over.
First off, we need to know the difference between Us and Them—in mind and in body.
Our kids are worried and anxious, just as we are. But we’re the ones in charge—their Reassurers-in-Chief. They need to know we’re there for them, no matter what.
“Don’t wait for them to
bring it up. Ask how they’re feeling,” advised Dr. Robin Gurwitch, psychiatry
professor at Duke University School of Medicine, on a call with reporters about
the virus and mental health. “That way, you can get a sense of their
understanding, validate their feelings, and correct misperceptions.”
To ensure lots of reassuring face-to-face contact and hugs, we can take a tip from the helpful American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Use Planner: establish zones in the household and times of day (at least at meals and bedtime) that are free from distractions such as personal technology—theirs and ours.
When reading Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time
Debate. Screens Won (NYT March 31, 2020) by reporter Nellie Bowles,
we need to consider the source: an adult with a fully formed brain.