NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 9, 2013

What New England's talking about

(Continued)

– Concord (N.H.) Monitor, July 1, 2013

A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation states that children spend an average of seven and a half hours each day staring at a screen, whether it’s a television, a computer or some other electronic gadget. That’s up 20 percent from just five years ago.

Meanwhile, over the past decade the number of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has surged by over 50 percent. And in the last six years that rate has jumped about 15 percent, to 6 million children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While it’s hard to prove a direct correlation between these two trends, experts say the strong parallels between the upswing in diagnoses and an increase of screen time are hard to ignore.

Children and young adults who overdo TV and video games are nearly twice as likely to suffer from a variety of attention span disorders, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics cited by Mobiledia.

Some experts think the growing attachment to our gadgets is part of the solution. “Maybe the kids’ focus on games could be used to draw them out as a way of developing social skills,” said Stephen Shore, author of “Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome” and a professor of special education at Adelphi University.

Rather than look at the issue as a problem, Shore believes we need to view it as a challenge. “These games are compelling to the kids, and instead of battling to eliminate them, we could use them to actually develop social skills.”

Then again, there’s something to be said for leaving the gadgets behind every so often, even if just for a little while, so we can slow down a bit, reconnect with friends and family on a more personal level, and rediscover the wonders of our own brain power. Both kids and adults alike would benefit from that downtime.

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