If You Want Your Kids To Be Happy, Cut This Out…
If you’re a parent of a young child, a teen, or even an adult who’s still in your home, you need to know about this.
It’s a seemingly harmless activity that starts innocently enough, but the effects it creates are both massive and long-lasting.
I’m talking about video games.
I know, I know. It sounds like no big deal, or maybe like the witch hunts of the 80s and 90s where things like heavy metal music and scary movies were said to cause violent behavior in the young population.
Where there’s no basis for those widely-disproven theories, though, this one is real.
Gone are the days where a kid would head down to an arcade with a pocket full of quarters. Then, they could spend an hour or two playing Donkey Kong or Space Invaders. They’d joke around with their friends, see who could get the highest score, and then ride their bikes home where dinner was waiting on the table for them. At that point, they’d chat with their mom and dad about what tests were coming up or maybe what happened in the baseball game they all watched together the night before.
It’s Not Like That Anymore
Now, 8-bit graphics and simple hero stories have been replaced with fully immersive worlds of blood, gore, violence, and debauchery. And kids are spending more time than ever before in these worlds. According to recent estimates, kids in the UK spend an average of 15 hours playing video games every week. Kids in the USA are playing them even more. That means they’re dedicating more time to video games than they dedicate to homework, meals with family, and personal hygiene combined.
Add in the time spent on texting, social media networks, and watching videos and you’ve got a generation practically zombified by screens.
While this sounds like a huge time suck (and it is), that’s not the biggest problem with all of this gaming and screen time.
The biggest problem is the reactions it causes in their young brains.
According to the New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, researcher, and educator Dr. Joe DiSpenza, this exposure is essentially rewiring the way their brains work.
Dr. DiSpenza really knows what he’s talking about. With books like Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself and after helping hundreds of thousands of people to change their undesirable behaviors, he knows what it takes to make a lasting change in the brain – for better or for worse.
When he visited my show recently, he shared that the research has proven that technology makes significant changes in the way dopamine is released in the brain.
For example, when a kid plays a video game and they struggle through a level and finally triumph – levelling a city or taking out the other team – they get a huge release of dopamine in their brain. This chemical creates a sense of happiness and excitement – but it doesn’t last forever.
The brain gets used to this new high, and as such, it becomes harder and harder to reach that level of happiness again.
All of a sudden, the daily activities they used to enjoy like reading or walking the dog become boring.
They live in a state of anhedonia.
School goes from an interesting way to pass the time to a depressing chore. After hours of gaming, with low levels of dopamine and an itch to find a way to make their day interesting again, students act out.
When most of the students in a classroom are struggling with this chemical deprivation / reward cycle, can you imagine the chaos the teacher has to cut through just to begin teaching?
Even worse, what kind of future can they possibly hope to have with bad habits and damaged brain chemistry?
Fortunately, These Changes Are Reversible
Making hard and fast rules about gaming and screen time and then sticking to them is a start. You, too, will have to follow these rules in order to lead by example. Start by leaving all phones away from the dining table. This simple change will help them re-engage with you and it will help you repair your own relationship with technology, too.
Beyond that, make sure your kids get out into nature. Exposure to nature can begin the steps of resetting the way they process information and their reactions to it. It changes their focus from a very narrow focus to a broad, captivating focus.
Next, make chores and homework a priority. Screen time is often little more than a time killer – a way to waste time while we avoid the thing we’re really supposed to be doing. When you put emphasis on chores and homework, they learn to focus on what needs to be done instead of pushing it to the side in the name of temporary fun. Also, this will help them learn to tackle adversity. When they can look back on something they’ve accomplished – whether that’s chemistry homework or mowing the lawn – they begin to feel good about themselves, and that helps to repair the chemical soup rushing through their minds, too.
Engage them in conversation regularly, and listen to what they have to say even when it’s boring. If you’re there to listen to the little details, they’ll come to you with the big problems, too. That can rebuild their trust and affinity and repair their pleasure pathways in their brains.
Your Kids Are Smart, Worthy Humans
If you take the time to teach them about this, it will help when it’s time to make changes in their relationship with technology. They can learn to self-regulate and turn inward for strengths in times of adversity. When they can do that, there’s nothing that they can’t accomplish. Isn’t that what you want for them?
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored