What is electronic screen syndrome?
Electronic screen syndrome (ESS) is a term coined by Dr. Victoria Dunckley, a child psychiatrist and expert on the effects of screen time on the brain. ESS refers to a condition that results from excessive use of electronic screen media, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, video games, and TV. ESS can cause various symptoms that affect mental health, such as mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, attention problems, learning difficulties, and even hallucinations. According to Dr. Dunckley, ESS is not a diagnosis, but a description of how the brain reacts to overstimulation from screen media.
How does screen media affect the brain?
Screen media can have both positive and negative effects on the brain, depending on the type, content, duration, and context of use. Some of the benefits of screen media include enhancing cognitive skills, creativity, communication, and social connection. However, some of the drawbacks of screen media include disrupting the natural rhythms of the brain, such as sleep-wake cycles, hormone levels, and stress response. Screen media can also interfere with the development of the brain’s executive functions, such as planning, organizing, prioritizing, and self-regulation. These functions are essential for academic success, emotional stability, and social competence.
Who is at risk of developing ESS?
ESS can affect anyone who uses screen media excessively or inappropriately. However, some groups are more vulnerable than others, such as children and adolescents, whose brains are still developing and maturing. Children and adolescents are also more likely to use screen media for entertainment and socialization purposes, rather than for educational or professional purposes. Additionally, people who have underlying mental health issues or neurological disorders may be more prone to developing ESS or worsening their existing symptoms.
How can ESS be prevented or treated?
The best way to prevent or treat ESS is to reduce or eliminate the use of screen media that causes overstimulation or distress. This may require setting limits on the amount and timing of screen use, choosing appropriate and positive content, and balancing screen time with other activities that promote physical, mental, and social well-being. Some examples of these activities include exercise, outdoor play, hobbies, reading, meditation, and spending quality time with family and friends. For people who have severe or persistent symptoms of ESS, professional help may be needed to address the underlying causes and provide appropriate interventions. Some of these interventions may include medication, psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, or neurofeedback.
Electronic screen syndrome is an emotional health concern related to computer use that can affect anyone who uses screen media excessively or inappropriately. ESS can cause various symptoms that affect mental health, such as mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, attention problems, learning difficulties, and even hallucinations. ESS can be prevented or treated by reducing or eliminating the use of screen media that causes overstimulation or distress and by engaging in other activities that promote physical, mental, and social well-being. If you or someone you know is suffering from ESS or any other mental health issue related to computer use, seek professional help as soon as possible. Remember that your health is more important than any device or app.