Children love excitement. From as early as a few months old, they are thrilled with the “peek-a-boo game.” Most love playing “hide-and-seek,” riding on fast rides, and swinging on high swings.
Parents love to surprise their child to see the looks of glee and wonder on their faces. It is fun. And, to be honest, grown-ups love excitement, too. The feeling of excitement comes from a hormone called adrenaline. Adrenalin gives a sensation of euphoria and energy. It provides a feeling of competence and strength as well as pleasure.
However, for every emotional high, there is an equal and equivalent low. The problem comes when the “rush” is gone and the emotions take a dive. You know this if you have ever given your child a birthday party complete with overstimulation and sugar. By the end of the party often there are tears and temper tantrums. Just as with a drug, the “let-down” can lead to a form of the blues called “post adrenaline depression.”
Parties are fun and worth the aftereffects, but it is important to understand the connection of adrenaline to stress. Adrenaline is closely related to another hormone called cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.” Adrenaline arouses the cardiovascular system and cortisol regulates many of the body’s systems during stress. Excessive cortisol is responsible for severe anxiety, including panic attacks and depression. Too much adrenaline stored in the body can cause health issues such as insomnia, lowered immunity toward illness, premature aging, and hyperactivity often diagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder. Classroom learning and social relationships are frequently affected. Adults may respond to an adrenaline addiction through perfectionism and workaholic tendencies.
Children can easily become addicted to the adrenalin rush. Developers of screen games test the biological responses to the product to make sure the games cause the elevation of the hormones. This is why some children become so consumed with gaming. Addiction expert Dr. Nicholas Kardaras says that after treating hundreds of heroin and crystal meth addicts, he has found these addictions are easier to treat than treating a true screen addict.
Children addicted to screens, games, and social media suffer in other ways. Their creative abilities are not developed when they are not allowed the down time to use their imaginations. Technology can stunt the normal growth of the frontal cortex which is the center for judgement, impulse control, and making good social decisions. Their “reality check mechanism” is distorted when much of their lives are spent in an unreal world. It can affect their brains so that the normal stimulation is no longer effective causing boredom and boring children. In Dr. Kardaras’s 10-year longitudinal study he observed “kids raised from an early age on a high-tech/high screen diet suffered from digital malaise. Bored and boring, they lacked a natural curiosity and a sense of wonder and imagination that non-screen kids seemed to have. They didn’t know – or care to know – about what was happening around them in the world. All that seemed to drive them was a need to be stimulated and entertained by digital devices.”*
God knows our bodies need to relax. He instructed us to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11
And in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”
Psychologist, Dr. Archibald Hart, recommends three ways to help your children break the adrenaline addiction:
• Parents can model a ‘balanced life.’
• Build in some down time where your child can relax and avoid stimulating activities.
• Most importantly help your child develop the habit of regular quiet time in the Scripture and prayer.