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Dopamine and Devices

Updated: Feb 16

Opening up the app store—be it in Apple or Google Play—we are overloaded with a bunch of applications which claim to be the best solution to monitoring and/or limiting your child’s digital device usage. Dig deeper, and you’re sure to find poor user interface, unreliable controls, and no incentives.

In a perfect world, children would choose to do productive and healthy things, like their homework, walking the dog, playing outside.. but the world is not perfect. Digital devices are made to get into our heads, and children are especially vulnerable to the dopamine releases their devices offer. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brains that is often correlated with pleasure, though it’s not limited to pleasure; it also controls attention. It’s the “gotta have it” transmitter.

Dopamine gets a bad rep in the pseudo-scientific online community more often than not. If people want something to be “bad” and “addictive,” they’ll say it releases dopamine—and this is true, sure. Playing games releases dopamine, so does getting likes or shares on social media, having candy, and so on. However, dopamine is also released after you finish a big project you’ve been working on. It’s a huge part of what motivates us. This is where it’s important to help your children distinguish good motivation and not so good motivation, and limit the latter.

Dopamine has a lot to do with successful social interactions, which is why the social media on digital devices is what many adults and children spend so much time on. They’re not just sitting around playing on their iPhone calculator, they’re texting friends, tweeting, retweeting, liking, being liked. Our brains have not had a chance to catch up with how quickly technology, and in turn, social media has developed, and this has left us incredibly susceptible to device addiction. Our brains are saying this is good, beneficial behavior, so here is some dopamine as a reward! These are not meaningful connections, and there is a huge disconnect.

It is up to parents to protect their children from cell phone addiction, and to do that, they need to promote healthy activities and discuss the harm that overusing technology can have on us, our brains, and our social lives in the real world. Despite seeming counterintuitive to use tech as a solution for tech addiction, there’s an app for that!

Genius App Manager gives parents some control over the device usage of their children. With a simple user interface, parents are able to block apps, set times in which children cannot use apps, and set step and activity goals for children to “earn” screen time. With Genius App Manager chores, parents set tasks for children to complete in order to “earn” screen time as well. Parents are no longer forced to take away their child’s devices, and instead are given the opportunity to limit them in a rewards-based way. This makes things easier for everyone involved, but it’s also important to remember to talk about the “why” behind limiting screentime so good habits can continue into your child's

adulthood.

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