Save your Child's Brain Part II: Real Life Scenarios, and the Benefits of Removing Video Games September 04 2018

We are fortunate to have as a guest blogger, Victoria Dunckley, MD, who has done ground-breaking work on helping families in de-toxing children, especially sensitive ones, from technological overstimulation. Author of the book “Reset Your Childs’ Brain, A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time, “she has identified the formal diagnosis “Effects of Electronic Screen Time,” or EEST. She has developed a four-part mini-course for parents and teachers entitled, “Save Your Child’s Brain”. We will post all four parts on our blog, with thanks to Dr. Dunckley.  

Save Your Child’s Brain Part II
Real Life Scenarios, and the Benefits of Removing Video Games
What real-life problems might video games cause? 

Nathan is an 11-year-old boy with no history of any behavior problems until he started 5th grade. That year, his grades fell, he became extremely angry, and he couldn't focus on anything for more than a few seconds. His mother reported him becoming increasingly isolated and losing interest in all other activities, including things he used to love. 

By the time they came in to see me, Nathan was on his second psychotherapist, had been seen by a neurologist and was now seeing a child psychiatrist. He'd been diagnosed initially as ADHD, then autism. Now his team was considering a bipolar diagnosis. He was taking three medications, even though none of them were working, and in fact, his mother felt they made him worse. 

She was desperate and felt very uneasy about having him on any medications, much less 3 of them! She reported that "something inside me didn't feel right - I just didn't think it was the answer to what was going on." 

After taking a careful history, we made a connection to two new things that started that school year: the first was he got a cell phone, and the second was he got an iTouch. Although he didn't play a lot of PlayStation or Nintendo, he did play games on his phone for several hours a day and had been getting in trouble at school for doing so. He also had a TV and a laptop in his room. 

Based on his history, I felt that even these rather severe symptoms could be explained by video game play. I knew from working with trauma patients that even a small amount of play could have lasting effects for days or even weeks. Daily play could cause all sorts of problems!

We put Nathan in my four week "electronic fast" program before we made any other treatment decisions. Sure enough, significant improvements in his mood, attitude, and behavior were seen fairly quickly. By the end of the next quarter, he'd gone from all D's and F's to A's and B's and was playing baseball again. His medications were weaned successfully. When he'd start to slip, we'd uncover the electronic culprit and remove it.

Here's a list of symptoms electronic screens can cause...

  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to complete tasks or follow directions
  • Trouble organizing oneself (e.g. getting ready for bed or school, gathering and sorting homework)
  • Difficulty with math or reading (including falling reading and math scores!) 
  • Temper tantrums, poor frustration tolerance, meltdowns: "he falls apart over the smallest thing," 
  • Stunted creativity, especially noticeable with activities they used to enjoy
  • Easily bored 
  • Annoyed easily by normal sensory experiences (e.g. being in a crowd, sitting closely to someone) 
  • Poor impulse control
  • Feeling anxious or stressed over small things
  • Overwhelmed with normal daily demands
  • Oppositional defiant behaviors
...And here's what can improve when you remove them:
  • Brighter, more relaxed mood
  • Gets along better with peers (e.g. plays games more fairly, less of a "sore loser")
  • Better insight into his own behavior
  • Engages better in conversation, improved eye contact
  • Tracks homework assignments better
  • Homework time less painful, sits still longer
  • Revisits past interests (legos, models, sports, board games)
  • Increased creative energy (draws more, more detail in stories)
  • Improved sleep- quantity and quality
  • More empathic (says "sorry" more often, is kinder to siblings)
  • Enjoys helping out more
  • If has tics, decreased intensity and frequency

Hopefully, you're starting to see the enormous benefits that removal can give your child. It may seem overwhelming to completely remove these items, but when you start to learn about the possible benefits, it should become more attractive:-)

For more help, check out the book, Reset Your Child's Brain.