Tag: video games

How Do I Set Safe Screen Time Limits for My Children?

Win Win Parenting 

Dear Dr Rosina, How do I set safe screen time limits for my children?

Most parents experience the challenge of limiting their children’s time facing a screen (whether TV, iPad, phone, laptop etc). We know in excess it is harmful for children, however, even as adults we feel the potential addictive nature of technology checking messages, social media alerts or achieving the next level in a game as almost irresistible. So, how can we manage technology within safe limits?

  1. Know the recommended limits for being on a device and share them with your child. 
  2. Help your children understand the many dangers of excessive time facing the screen. 
  3. Have screen-free times and areas. For example: none at mealtimes, before exercise or in bedrooms 90 minutes before sleep.


Read more from Dr Rosina McAlpine HERE. 





Hooked on Dopamine – The ‘Feel-Good’ Neurotransmitter

The worlds brands and tech creators spend literally billions of dollars trying to get your attention.

We are the “Attention Generation”. Dopamine plays a role in how they get our attention. But what is Dopamine and how does this chemical work in our bodies?

Nearly all pleasurable experiences involve the release of dopamine. Having a good meal, exercising, shopping and even drugs, gambling, gaming and getting a notification that someone has liked your post on Facebook.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter made in the brain. Basically, it acts as a chemical messenger between neurons, and your brain releases this ‘feel-good’ chemical when it is expecting a reward. It determines whether we want to do something again. Dopamine isn’t acting alone. It works with other neurotransmitters and hormones, such as serotonin and adrenaline. 

The right amount of dopamine usually goes along with a pretty good mood. It’s ideal for learning, planning, and productivity giving you feelings of focus, motivation, happiness, and alertness. Low dopamine however is one reason why you can have trouble concentrating, poor coordination, and low motivation.

When our body is experiencing pleasure, it responds by releasing dopamine. This release causes your brain to focus more of its attention on the experience and it works out pathways to ensure it receives this feel good chemical again. Dopamine activates your brain’s reward centre. When the brain picks up that it may soon receive a reward, whether that reward be food, or likes on social media- a flash of dopamine zaps that reward pathway. Then you get another hit when you get the perceived reward.

For example, suppose your “go-to” comfort food is a bar of chocolate. Your brain may increase dopamine when you see chocolate in advertising, spot it in the pantry, you see someone eating it, or even if you think about it or get a waft of it. When you eat it, another flood of dopamine acts to reinforce this craving and focuses on satisfying it in the future.

It’s a cycle of motivation, reward, and reinforcement that causes us to seek, desire, and expect certain outcomes.

Now imagine that you’ve been longing for that hidden chocolate bar all day, but you discover when you get home that someone in your family ate it. Your disappointment might lower your dopamine level and dampen your mood. It might also intensify your desire for chocolate, making you want it even more (and send someone to the store!).

This can also happen when we post something on social media. We expect some likes and comments and we constantly check and get a dopamine hit if it’s going well. If it’s not, then that can cause internal conflict and lower mood feelings.

While dopamine isn’t the sole cause of addiction, its motivational properties are thought to play a role in addiction.

Experts evaluate something’s potential to cause addiction by looking at the speed, intensity, and reliability of the dopamine release it causes in your brain. It doesn’t take long for your brain to associate certain behaviours or substances with a rush of dopamine. That’s why people can get addicted to drugs, overeating, gambling, gaming, alcohol, caffeine and even exercise.

Addictive substances and behaviours can cause dopamine levels to spike, and over a long period of time, sometimes the brain weakens or eliminates receptors built to respond to dopamine which leads to us needing more of the drug, substance or activity to elicit the same amount of dopamine. This can steadily lead to us losing interest and needing something more exciting to take its place (for and extreme example; those that start out on marijuana can end up on ice).

That is why our phones are becoming an issue for many of us, and why we can easily get addicted to watching a show or playing a video game. Digital technologies, such as social networks, online shopping, and games, use a set of persuasive and motivational techniques to keep users returning. This is why we need to be acutely aware that technology in particular, is built to keep us hooked.

Notifications, responses and rewards are ruling our lives because this attention is addictive. Gaming creators call this the “compulsion loop”.

The Science Behind it?

Every time someone reacts to something you have done online, or you react positively to something someone else has done online, you get a dopamine hit. Dopamine is an addictive pleasure chemical, it’s like a hug for the brain. Who doesn’t want more pleasure chemicals and hugs? The negative though is that the opposite also occurs if we don’t get the attention we desire:

  • Decreased self-esteem/eating disorders and body dysmorphia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression/depressive symptoms
  • Feeling a lack of connection
  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Deterioration in concentration and other symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Researchers have found that addicted players of video games, regardless of gender, were more anxious and depressed, and showed poorer impulse control and cognitive functioning than gamers who were not addicted. Poor impulse control and poor cognitive functioning are risk factors for various kinds of addiction, so those with pre-existing depression, anxiety or under high levels of stress need to be mindful of this.

The brain, according to Dr Win Wenger, can consciously process 126 bits of information per second. However, the brain receives 10 million bits of information per second. That means we can only focus on 1/80,000 of the data our brain is getting.

Our brain loves to build patterns, and even though the brain makes up 2 percent of our bodies mass, it uses 20% of our body’s energy. So, if your brain has been in overdrive, it’s no wonder we can feel exhausted. This is where techniques like meditation, mindfulness, and learning ways to give our brains a rest and reset is really important.

Dopamine is the reward centre in our brains, and the challenging thing for 21st century parents in our high-tech society is our potential addiction to constant rewards, and gratification. Understanding how dopamine works is a great start to teaching our children that not everything in their lives can be gamified and rewarded, and we need to find lots of ways to get these lovely dopamine hits naturally.

Did you know dopamine is involved in many body functions. These include:

  • blood flow
  • digestion
  • executive functioning
  • heart and kidney function
  • memory and focus
  • mood and emotions
  • motor control
  • pain processing
  • pancreatic function and insulin regulation
  • pleasure and reward seeking behaviour
  • sleep
  • stress response


Learn more about Bree James here and read more of her PakMag blogs here.  




My Son Plays a Lot of Video Games. How Could This Affect His Hands?

Helping Hands – Hand, Wrist & Arm Clinic

Dear Cassandra, My son plays a lot of video games. How could this affect his hands?

The repetitive nature of finger and thumb movements on keyboards, joysticks and hand held controllers can lead to fatigue, pain and even inflammation of tissues. Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) and cumulative trauma can be the end result if not picked up early. Unfortunately this means the pain continues after the consoles have been put away. In turn this can impact other activities and disrupt sleep. But, on a positive note, it is rare for children to present with RSI. In general, good habits and moderation will certainly ensure your son doesn’t have more serious problems once he hits his teens.

Call Helping Hands on 4755 2337

Learn more about body awareness when it comes to device usage: 






The average Australian child is spending 11.5 hours online each week, according to the latest Neilson survey. This amount has increased three-fold since 2007 and there are no signs of slowing down. Teens aged 13 to 15 spend an average of 18.7 hours each week online, which is equivalent to more than three days at school.

And while some of this time may be spent researching for school papers, there is no doubt that online gaming and social media come into play as well.

Are Our Children Too Connected?

A study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 69 per cent of children went online to play games while 48 per cent of children aged 12 to 14 spend time each week on social media sites.

Mobile internet growth among young mobile users has grown by 600 per cent since 2007. And 81 per cent of kids and teens are hoping online after school but before 6pm.

Family Time Vs. Facebook Time

What this means is that more and more families around Australia are choosing to connect to their screens rather than each other.

“As screens become more and more universal we are starting to reflect on how technology is influencing relationships with our children and partners,” Ms Laura Demasi, Research Director at Ipsos Australia says.

“Personal screens and shared screens, such as televisions, are completely different. There is no social interaction with personal screens. And this is the concern.”

With the rise in fear of Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) a term being use to explain the impact technology is having on children’s development and temperament, it is clear that cutting back on our online addiction is something all families need to consider.

However, DeMasi adds, “Despite these concerns about technology, Australians are still hugely enthusiastic about electronic devices and definitely not about to give up their screens.”

Personal electronic devices, such as smart phone and tablets continue to be among our most used appliances (75 per cent) across all age demographics. But, unsurprisingly, it’s not just our kids who are addicted to the internet.

Anti-Social Media Among Adults

Parents are just as bad with online addiction, claims, Pew Research Center as more and more parents are turning to social media for parenting-related information and social support.

The most common form of social media for parents is Facebook, with 75 per cent of parents actively participating in liking, sharing and commenting.

28 per cent of parents use Pinterest; 25 per cent use Instagram and 27 per cent use LinkedIn. Twitter ranks as the fifth most popular form of social media with 23 per cent of online parents using it.

Of course, many parents, myself included, are guilty of using all five (and often all in the same day).

The Communication Gap

Despite the fact that social media brings people from around the world together, it also have the opposite effect for those living in the same household. The Pew Research Center discovered that 25 per cent of married adults have text their partner when they were both home together, rather than simply walking ten meters to speak to them.

And 9 per cent of adults in a committed relationship even admit that they have resolved an argument with their partner online or via text message rather than speaking face to face about their concerns.

Cutting Back on Your Connection

Origin’s Energy Expert, Anne Armansin, says while technology will forever play a role in Australians’ lives, everyone could make some simple changes to the way they use it to ensure quality family time doesn’t suffer as a result of being too plugged in.

“Parents should try to set some house rules for the amount of time their children spend using a device, and help them understand why this is important.”

“There are also several apps out there that can help people realise how much time they’re spending on specific devices, and allow them to unplug from your device for a nominated period of time.”

Plugged In But No Longer Present

Social media networks and online interactions are host to a wide range of human experiences; they help connect people with one another in both good times and bad. But there is no denying that they can lead to online addiction.

The bottom line, DeMasi says, is “the more time we spend on our screens, the less time we interact with each other.”

There have been several times when I have looked up from my phone and caught my husband on his phone, and my children on their iPads. Sure, we are all in the same room. Sure, we are enjoying one another’s company. But, the scary reality is that, while we are together, we are spending this time alone.

Try and disconnect every now and again and reconnecting with each other through fun activities.