Combatting Screen Time with “Antidopamine Parenting”
For parents with young children, screen time can be a major concern. The amount of time spent on social media or playing video games is an ever-present question. Instead of blaming the devices themselves, the answer may lie inside the brain. “Antidopamine parenting” is a strategy that can counteract the negative impact of dopamine and influence our behavior.
Dopamine, also known as the “feel-good hormone,” is a neurotransmitter that acts as part of the brain’s reward system. Research has found that dopamine doesn’t provide us with pleasure but generates another strong emotion: desire.
“Dopamine makes you want things,” explains University of Montreal neuroscientist Anne-Noël Samaha. It tells the brain to pay close attention to whatever triggered the surge in neurotransmitters. Moreover, it doesn’t matter whether you or your child find the activity pleasurable; dopamine is still triggered.
Implementing “Antidopamine Parenting”
Experts encourage parents to remember they’re combating chemicals, not their children. It’s not a battle between the parent and child, but the dopamine. To reduce conflict, experts recommend the following strategies:
1. Reset before moving on.
After a dopamine high from screen time or sugary treats, the brain takes time to come down. By putting the device or sweet out of sight, children won’t be triggered again.
2. Find activities that make children feel good.
By trying different activities, parents can find outlets that give children an appropriate boost of dopamine. Pay close attention to the activities that make them feel better and incorporate more of these into their routine.
3. Regulate device usage (and location).
Consider limiting device usage to one room in the house or doing a digital detox, wherein everyone in the family takes time away from phones and tablets. Out of sight from devices can be out of mind.
4. Substituting toxic habits with healthier ones.
It’s not always possible to get children to do away with technology altogether, but parents can find more purposeful activities such as educational games and outdoor activities. Instead of watching cartoons, parents can encourage hands-on hobbies such as puzzle-solving or going for a walk.
“Antidopamine parenting” recognizes that dopamine drives behaviors and uses it to shape more positive habits. Parents can reset dopamine levels by following certain strategies such as regulating device usage and finding healthier activities that give children an appropriate boost of dopamine. Taking a more mindful approach to screen time can benefit a child’s overall well-being.