Guest Expert

How to Take Your Child Off of Technology

There are many different perspectives on modern technology use by children – especially for complex children -- and they are certainly not all in agreement with each other!

Some experts argue for limitation, others for moderation, still others for accepting the new world order. Many encourage you to find the gifts and play to your child's strengths. Randy Kulman's work, for example, helps parents maximize the opportunities available through technology.

Quite often, parents believe technology is to blame for their child's problems. "If only I could get my child off of the device," parents complain to us routinely. However, when we look into the situation, we may discover that the technology is a symptom of a larger problem, providing temporary emotional escape for children whose needs have otherwise not yet been met.

Is Technology Doing More Harm Than Good?

But if you have a sense that your children's responses when they are engaged in technology are not healthy, that the technology may be causing more harm than good, then this may be a terrific interview for you.

If you suspect that technology is somehow dehumanizing, then Dr. Victoria Dunckley's explanation of how screen time affects mood, focus and behavior will either validate you, or confirm your greatest fears! And if you've been wondering whether to "take your child off of technology" for a trial, you'll get instructions on how you might do that.

In this interview, Dr. Victoria Dunckley explains "the physiology that is going on behind the scenes" in a child's brain. She identifies several mechanisms that are happening simultaneously when "a child picks up a screened device and interacts with that device." In her framework, the brain interprets it as a form of stress and goes into fight or flight.


According to Dr. Dunckley, a child's "reward pathways are activated in a very intense manner, so that can lead to higher levels of arousal, and eventually those pathways get desensitized." In addition, there are "sensory inputs: the vivid colors, the rapid movement, scene changes, the content, everything is intense." Beyond that, the tendency to multitask when we are on the screen, the light itself (blue and white tones "tell us to be on the alert, so that also raises arousal"), "put us in a heightened state of arousal; and over time that turns into chronic stress."

A Digital Detox

This explanation sets the stage for an interview that continues with an explanation of how to do a digital detox, including a recommendation to go further and commit to an "electronic fast" – for the whole family. It is fascinating, useful information – but it is not a prescription.

In fact, it is sure to be controversial for some. So we encourage you to listen to it in the context of the ongoing conversation we have with you about technology. Our purpose in sharing is not to demonize technology, but to provide you with a perspective to consider, and information to inform your decision-making.

If you're a parent who finds yourself wondering, "should I take my child off of technology," then this information should be one data point for you to consider among many others, perhaps even in conversation with your health care provider.

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