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This series by Eric Litwiller of the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas looks at mental health in the Wichita area. It is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.

Commentary: Screen Time Leads To Isolation, The Enemy Of Good Mental Health

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Kelly Sikkema
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As we continue our series looking at mental health in the Wichita area, Eric Litwiller of the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas talks about the relationship between mental health issues and isolation.

Nearly half of children aged eight or under in Wichita have their own tablet device, and spend an average of two-and-a-quarter hours each day staring at a screen. This, despite the fact that screen time has been shown to lower scores on language and thinking tests, as well as to physically shrink the area of the brain related to critical thinking and reasoning. But perhaps even more importantly, no matter the dimension of media or with which part of the brain it is intended to connect, staring at a screen precludes the child’s interaction with the physical world around them, including the people with whom they need to learn to interact.

The resulting disadvantage they face growing up while struggling to productively engage with other people can place them at a long-term disadvantage in both their academic and professional endeavors, leading to isolation in a variety of aspects in their lives. And isolation is the quintessential enemy of good mental health. Isolation – whether physical or social – not only exacerbates existing mental health concerns, but can cause or create mental illnesses on its own.

If you notice dramatic behavioral changes when removing the availability of phone, tablet, or TV screens from your children, they may already be experiencing the effects of psychological addiction that can hinder their development for years to come. But it is never too early to seek help. Find a therapist that works with children’s issues, and make an appointment today.

Links to more information can be found at MHANational.org. KMUW’s mental health series is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.

Eric Litwiller is the director of development and communications at the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas.