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Grand Rapids neuropsychologist Dr. Michael Wolff’s thoughts on what too much screen time can mean for children and teen-agers are definite.

While smartphones, video games, TV, social media and other screen media can be beneficial, there are a range of negative impacts to be wary of, he says.

“In my generation, you actually played games,” Wolff told more than 110 people at Circles Newaygo County’s community discussion on science, addiction and brain development under the influence of technology in Dogwood Center for the Performing Arts in Fremont. “Now, you watch somebody else play games.

“It’s kind of scary when you see what’s happening.”

Wolff’s presentation, titled “The Great Disconnect: From MegaHERTZ to MegaHURTS,” and TrueNorth Community Services’ Circles Newaygo County self-sufficiency program are both funded by a Fremont Area Community Foundation grant. Circles Newaygo County is an intensive, volunteer-driven approach to reducing poverty. 

Among other findings shared by Wolff and BRAINS colleague Alisha Lauchie’ in their discussion Thursday night:

  • Tweens and teens average 11 hours or more of media and tech time every day.
  • By age 20, the typical person has spent about  3½ years on the internet, playing games or using technology.
  • Children now spend more time with the media than they do with their family, in school or sleeping.
  • Each hour of TV a toddler watches can result in a 7 percent decrease in classroom engagement and a 13 percent decrease in weekly physical activity.
  • Continued excessive use of technology, social media and gaming can be a sign of underlying mental illness such as ADHD, anxiety or depression. 

Parents have a role to play in monitoring, controlling and curbing media consumption, Lauchie’ said. “Use technology to your advantage. It doesn’t have to be bad.”

The discussion was broadcast on Facebook Live and is available on the Facebook pages for Circles Newaygo County and TrueNorth Community Services.

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