Interview – Kids, Screen time and addiction

What impact does smartphones, tablets, online games, social media have on our children…and on us?

Ulla Dyrløv, Childrens therapist and Author

Back in December 2018 I came across an interview that instantly sparked my curiosity. It was with the Danish Child Psychologist Ulla Dyrløv, who had just published a book about The impact smartphones, iPads, computers and the internet have on our kids and teens.

Unfortunately, it already has a large negative side-effect. Larger than I had ever imagined! I have interviewed Ulla Dyrløv about this important topic and I am very excited about sharing all this valuable information with you.

“We know it is not good that our child spends so much time on his computer, iPhone, Tablet, but what can we do?”.

Ulla had heard parents say this way too often. She felt alarmed that parents seemed to have given up and placed the responsibility for something so potentially damaging in the arms of their children.

It was time to write down her observations on how too much screen time is in fact damaging to our kids in many different ways. Having been a therapist for children for the past 20 years, she has first hand experience of it. She has spoken to kids about online addiction and the isolation they feel. She has spoken to kids that don’t want the devices, which many parents have given them, and instead long for more quality time with their parents.

“How do we best guide our children through the usage of screens, computer games and being online?”

In her book and in the interview, which I will post on my blog later this week, Ulla gives us her advice on how we can best guide our kids through the usage of screens, being online, playing computer games, engaging in social media etc.

The book’s title in Danish is: ”Få styr på dit barns digitale verden”. The translation would be along the lines of: “Learn to understand your child’s digital world”. The book is only out in Danish.

“My own personal experience with screens and my almost 3 year-old son”

I have had first-hand experience of how allowing my son to watch kids cartoons online, or small clips of himself on my phone, was changing his behavior completely. Over an entire day he might have watched 30min in total. He became aggressive and slept worse. Since then I began reading about kids and how screens i.e. smartphones, iPads, computers was impacting their brain and behavior.

My son is 2 years and 8 months and we almost never let him watch videos on our laptops or phones. So yes, this also meant no toddler-movies of any kind. He gets to see a screen when we video-chat with our family abroad.

I let him watch some baby cartoons online and play with my iPhone when he was around 1 1/2 year-old, and I thought “ahh, this gives me 15-20min of time for me, while he watches that”. But, I quickly noticed he became obsessed with it, or actually mostly my Phone, cause he could hold it and swipe and look at pictures and videos on it. I only let him watch our own family videos and pictures.

“He was transfixed and did not want to play any of our normal games. He got angry and frustrated when I said he could not watch more”

Last week I forgot to turn off the screen while putting on childrens’ music on Youtube and I let him watch animated kids music videos for 10-15 minutes. The next day he would not listen to music without the screen on. I let him watch 15min, just to experiment and see how it would affect him.

He was transfixed and did not want to play any of our normal games. He got angry and frustrated when I said he could not watch more computer.

On day three the first thing he did when he woke up was to go to the computer and ask for music and videos. He stood in front of it waiting for me to turn it on. I made up my mind: no more screens. The only thing I saw was a negative change in his behavior compared to before.

“Ok, you can watch 3 videos and then my computer has to relax and will only play the music”. I sat together with him while he watched the three small clips of 3 min. each and said: “now there is 2 left”, “now this is the last one” and “now my computer has to relax”. He accepted.

It has now been one week without the screen

The following day, when he asked for the video, I told him my computer was still tired and could only play music. I did not let him watch video’s and just made sure we had other games lined up to catch his attention. It worked. It has now been 7 days with no screen again and he is fine. He happily listens to the music without the screen being on. And so we are back to our “no screen” policy at home.

Jordan (my son) did not stop asking for videos, but I just kept on repeating that my computer needed to relax and he accepted.

I would rather avoid screens all together for as long as I possibly can, cause he will be introduced to all of it eventually anyway.

Let me just clarify one thing. I am in no way against internet, smartphones and advancing technologically. But I am against not regulating the use of it, especially when I so clearly (!) see the negative side effect of it.

Ulla Dyrløv’s new book about how we best can understand and guide our children as they navigate through the digital world.

“Letting my child sit with a tablet or smartphone, gives me a moment to myself”

Have you binge watched something for 2-3 hours or more? How did it make you feel afterwards? I have tried it. I recall watching up to 5 hours non-stop of the series 24Hours once. I felt sick.

I dreamt about Kiefer Sutherland all night. My dreams were action packed and not very relaxing and on top of that I kept hearing his whispering voice. I can laugh at it now, but boy I felt bad.

I felt as if my whole body was tingling with nervous energy. I felt like I had to jump or exercise to get this stress-energy out, but was too tired to do it. Instead I took just one more episode…and then one! I was totally hooked an did not relax until I had watched all the episodes. It was like a drug. I was totally out of control!

“Now, imagine how your kids feel after having been online or busy with a screen for hours?”

I recall reading an article a little while back by a group of scientists. They had found that when we scroll or swipe or ”interact” with a iPad or smartphone, the chemical release in the brain is the same as if you have a shot of cocaine! Yes COCAINE! So, this massive high leaves you with craving more and more and yes, it is addictive.

“What are the most frequent and damaging side-effects and what can we do as parents?”

In my interview with Ulla Dyrløv she shares the damaging side-effects of too much screentime, too soon and what happens to our kids and teens. Then she gives us us advice on how to best help guide and set limits for our children, when it comes to them being online and looking at screens.

I am very happy to be able to share this important interview with you later this week. Feel free to post a comment on your own experience if you have something to share.

Warm regards from Berlin


PSssst… if you want to read more about Ulla, and if you understand Danish, you can find her website here. http://ulladyrlø

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