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Internet-powered stress and the young brain

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Dr. Kristen Race, author of Mindful Parenting and founder of Mindful Life, wrote an excellent article in Huffington Post last February about the impact of stress in children’s lives and the role of parents in raising stressed out kids. Her piece centers on the previous observations about the Generation X youth who were considered to be stressed out. Her thesis is that the current trends for depression and anxiety among children at younger ages demonstrate universal truth: it is actually how any generation’s parents handle stress that makes all the difference.

It is simple really. Whatever is happening in the world, stressed out parents raise stressed out kids.

(Related reading: Why worrying and caring are not the same thing)

And the role of the parent in promoting healthy stress management is more critical for the modern child exposed to cyber-powered pressures of peers and popular culture 24 hours a day.

Dr. Shadi Jani, M.D., MSc, is the Vice President of Programs for B.R.A.V.E. Society, a peer abuse education and prevention non-profit in Carmichael. She explains how the modern child may be exposed to a lot more stress than previous generations. “Many studies have linked excessive use of Internet with depression, poor academic performance and impulsive behavior to use Internet,” she said.

Jani explains that excessive internet use among youth can impede development of several small regions in the brain which could potentially lead to negative effects like diminished inhibition on inappropriate behavior and reduced goal printed behavior.

She is also concerned that unhealthy stress responses, such as gambling or substance abuse can also result in internet addiction (always on the device or gaming). “Children who use Internet excessively might be exposed to developing a type of addiction that was not experienced in the pre-digital era.” she said.

Jani observes that American children are already under enormous pressure to perform and most of them tend to not have much of personal time. “In on-line gaming, a child could be whoever he chooses to be; a hero, a king who builds empire, even a murderer,” she said. “It is the perfect space to be submerged in fantasy. This type of escapism is very attractive to our youth who are struggling with the harsh realities of life.”

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