The impact of screen time on young brains and how to reduce the time that children spend gazing at electronic devices is something that vexes parents everywhere.
But help could be at hand with one of the world's leading neuroscientists speaking at a community meeting in Ballarat on Friday.
Baroness Susan Greenfield will discuss how to reduce harmful exposure to screen time at the Ballarat Innovation and Research Collaboration for Health's first community event.
"The central theme of my talk will be that the biggest shift in the current mind-set is towards one trapped as never before in the present, needing constant stimulation and input from the immediate, external world. What might be the solution?" she said ahead of her return to Ballarat.
"The past five years has witnessed a clear shift in public opinion from what was once a love affair with screen technology, to a far greater cynicism and concern over its long-term impact."
Baroness Greenfield has previously warned that excessive computer screen use has dramatically altered our brains and the impact is akin to climate change in its complexity, controversy and global scale.
At a conference last month, Baroness Greenfield warned millennials and young children were the most prone to this neurological shift and unlike other technological advancements like the printing press and television, computers had created a parallel virtual world that severs human interaction.
"When all those developments occurred, people still ate together, they shopped face-to-face, played games, they certainly dated and they worked face-to-face," she said.
"Now you can do all those activities without meeting another human being. Surely that has an impact on the kind of human being you become."
World Health Organisation guidelines recommend no passive screen time for children under the age of one and no more than one hour a day for those under five to limit the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle on developing brains and bodies. Previous studies have suggested a link between excessive screen time, shorter attention spans, addictive personalities, recklessness, low empathy, poor interpersonal skills and a weakened sense of identity.
Baroness Greenfield has published more than 200 papers in peer-reviewed journals and is a frequent visitor to Victoria as governor of The Florey Institute for Neuroscience and Mental Health, Melbourne; Visiting Professor, Melbourne Medical School and a member of the President's Visiting Fellowship scheme, University of Newcastle (UON) Australia.
While in Victoria she is expected to meet with Department of Education officials to discuss the use of iPads and other screens in schools.
Baroness Greenfield's visit, the first public event for BIRCH, helps fulfill one of the organisation's goals to engage academics and clinicians with the public in the research process
"Everyone associated with BIRCH is greatly looking forward to the visit by Baroness Greenfield," said BIRCH executive director Associate Professor Mark Yates.
"She is an international leader on her field and I am sure her presentations will be of great value and insight to the Ballarat community.
"Prolonged exposure to screen time is now a pressing issue and we are delighted Susan Greenfield has accepted our invitation to talk about it.
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"It is vital that the community participate in the research process and Baroness Greenfield is the first of our internationally renowned speakers we intend to bring to Ballarat to challenge our thinking and ideas."
BIRCH is a collaboration between St John of God Ballarat Hospital, Ballarat Health Services, Federation University, Australian Catholic University, Notre Dame University, Deakin University, the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University.
The community meeting is open to the public for a gold coin donation to BHS chief medical officer Rosemary Aldrich's Dancing With Our Stars fundraiser, and will be held in the Atrium of St John of God Hospital from 5.30pm on Friday.
The presentation will be followed by an open invitation for attendees to suggest research ideas for BIRCH.
- with Sydney Morning Herald
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