Robin thought she was “being Super Mom” as she made nice dinners and tidied her midwestern U.S. home, with her toddler son quietly sitting nearby watching made-for-babies TV. She didn’t know that by letting him watch so often, he was developing the newly described condition termed “Virtual Autism.”
Took a While to Realize
For weeks, Robin rationalized the changes she saw, but finally had to admit something was wrong. Her formerly happy, lively 14-month-old had stopped having eye contact, no longer said words, and began to display hand-flapping, spinning and other autistic-like symptoms.
“The big one was,” she recalls, “he had stopped answering to his name.” Continue reading
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
Encouragement, structure, and media management can improve children’s mental health and boost their brain development. So say multiple mental health experts, even as a mental health emergency rages on among U.S. children and teens.
Matt Miles, a high school teacher in suburban Washington, D.C., sees the crisis playing out.
“The number that’s exploding are the kids with moderate day-to-day inability to cope.” They can’t handle the pressure they used to, he says, “like two tests in a day.”
Children’s mental health practitioners are also concerned.
Starting simple wellness habits can help families move beyond the pandemic, which took a heavy toll on health, social skills, and confidence. New surveys reveal the extent of the damage, but point to avenues for healing and durability.
Even though the pandemic caused “major disruptions” in their children’s lives, many parents believe family bonds grew stronger. “Most parents set out to create safe and loving homes for their children, which led to closer positive relationships” according to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Family Snapshots survey done with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
But even as they tried to create a sense of comfort, parents and care givers were under stress. The pandemic changed the nature of almost half the jobs held by those who had been working full- or part-time.
1 Billion Meals Not Served
Many more American families did not have enough to eat. “Estimates suggest food insecurity in households with children more than doubled,” according to Eliza Kensey, associate research scientist at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Black and brown families were disproportionately affected, as were families in rural communities. Continue reading