KVMR town hall tackles epidemic of screen addiction in kids | TheUnion.com

KVMR town hall tackles epidemic of screen addiction in kids

The effects can be crippling.

Anxiety. Depression. Stunted emotional growth. Isolation. Lack of social skills. Intellectual regression. The list goes on and on.

These aren't symptoms of a genetic illness. According to psychotherapist and author George Lynn, they're the result of a self-inflicted problem that has snuck up and become an epidemic faster than the issue was realized. It's robbing children of their identities.

It's screen addiction, the obsession to spend hours a day scrolling through Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media platforms that keeps us locked into our smartphones, tablets and computers.

Lynn, whose new book "Breaking the Trance: A Practical Guide for Parenting the Screen-Dependent Child," addressed the problem on Tuesday's "Screen Dependence in Children" town hall discussion at the Nevada Theater. The event was hosted and live broadcasted by KVMR.

The average sixth-grader, Lynn said, spends between 8-10 hours a day on screen media. That number jumps to 11-14 hours a day for high school students.

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"It's taking over our culture," Lynn said.

Lorrie Fredrickson, a school psychologist with the Grass Valley School District and A New Day board member, said she's seen a dramatic rise in apathy, depression and anxiety in the classroom in recent years.

"When I interview kids on a daily basis, I'm hearing the same thing. … The common denominator is they're embedded in screen time."

PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED

Lynn focused much of his talk on the role of parents in controlling screen use and their failure to understand how important that role is.

"Parent who think they can just let it go, they can't," he said.

Lynn's recommendation: Limit recreational screen usage to no more than two hours per day, preferably less than one hour. They also need to fight through the urge to appease their kids and get past the guilt associated with saying no or putting up boundaries.

"Children don't pick up self control intuitively," he said. "They pick it up from their parents. … Say no out of love rather than yes out of fear."

Lynn made some other suggestions. Among them, devices should be absent during family dinners, homework and family outings.

EDUCATIONAL DILEMMA

In Tuesday's question-and-answer session, a number of educators commented or asked about the use of technology in schools. They referred to screen addiction as a crisis that's creating a culture of isolation.

Here's the problem: Computer technology plays a vital role in education. Information is gathered online. Tests are taken online. Projects are created online. The goal is to find the right balance. How do you do that?

Yuba River Charter School Director Ron Charles, one of Tuesday's panelists, has been with the school since 2003 and its director since 2015. Yuba River has a low-tech approach to education. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade are completely screen free, sixth graders are introduced to technology in a slow, conscious way, seventh graders do more research on computers, and eighth graders prepare for the jump to high school with video editing and presentations.

It's a balance, Charles said, that keeps the younger students from developing abusive screen media habits while also preparing the older students for reality.

"We can't send students out into the world without knowing how to use a computer," he said.

To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

BY THE NUMBERS

70-100: Average number of texts sent daily by high school students

8-10 hours: Time the average sixth grader spends on recreational screen time daily

11-14 hours: Time the average high school student spends on recreational screen time daily