The Science Behind Screen Time

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Your kiddo is tethered to his phone, tablet, gaming system or some other electronic device. You set a timer. You beg. You plead. You buy a shopping cart filled with “hands-on” toys that should easily replace those apps, online games and social media sites. And…nothing. Well, your child isn’t an anomaly. And they’re not alone. Even though it seems like your child just plain isn’t listening to you, there’s actually some science behind why they’re all about electronics 24-7.

Okay, so it’s no big secret that there are some super-smarties behind the design (and functioning) of your child’s favorite apps and games. But the people who create these tech-time activities aren’t just experts at making games, website and apps look good. Nope. They also know how to get you, and your child, kind of addicted to whatever they’ve made.

So how do the “makers” get and keep your child’s attention? There are more than a few behavioral science-based methods out there. You know those little push notifications you’re always getting every time you get a text, someone follows you on Instagram or someone likes your FB post? These external “triggers” combined with your or your child’s boredom or insecurity can make some of these social media sites habit-forming.

Along with push notifications, the randomness of social media sites can grab the user’s attention and keep them coming back by offering “variable rewards.” Your teen may see a post that they love when they open their FB app or they might get an ad for shoe inserts. It’s the uncertainty that makes it addictive.

Along with all the psychological science, there’s also the fact that your child feels good when hr or she plays a favorite game or uses an awesome app. That euphoric feeling raises dopamine levels in the brain, causing addiction-like behavior.

The good news is, you’re the parent here. That means you can turn off those push notifications and put limits on device use.

How much time does your child spend on his or her devices? Share your tech-time number in the comments below.


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