Brain development | Kay Trotter

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  Contact : (214) 499-0396

All Posts Tagged: Brain development


By Daniel Folmer – LPC-Intern and Tracie Posehn LPC-Intern, Counselors at and Supervised by Dr. Kay Sudekum Trotter – Counseling Services PLLC

“Being part of the Nintendo generation taught me that turning on a game was an easy escape from reality. Whatever academic, social, or occupational problems haunted me during the day, there was always a place I could succeed: video games. For people who struggle in reality, gaming and technology can easily takeover as the watermark for success. How can we recognize problematic usage of technology and gaming? How can we help those who seem to be stuck in a pattern of abuse?” – Daniel Folmer, LPC-Intern

Can Gaming be Beneficial to the Brain?


  • Video gamers show improved skills in vision, attention and certain aspects of cognition.
  • Gamers perform better than non-gamers on certain tests of attention, speed, accuracy, vision and multitasking – (Daphne Beveller, University of Rochester)


  • Facebook – Bullying, Gossiping, Predators
  • Video Games – Violence, Drugs, Alcohol
  • Pornography
  • Twitter – Uncontrolled Communication
  • Chat Roulette
  • Tumbler
  • Text Messaging

Screen Time – How Much is too Much?

A University of Bristol study surveyed 1,000 kids ages 10 and 11. Over a period of seven days, the children filled out a questionnaire reporting how much time they spent either watching TV or at a computer – something doctors call “screen time” – and answered questions describing their mental state. An accelerometer measured physical activity levels.

Kids who spend more than two hours of screen time a day were 60% more likely to have psychological difficulties such as depression or ADHD. Those who got more physical activity fared better than their sedentary peers, those with more screen time still scored worse in behavioral areas such as hyperactivity.

According to a report in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, teens who spend more time watching television or using computers seem to have poorer relationships with their parents and peers.


61% spend around 20 hours of screen time per week, on average

32% spend around 40 hours of screen time per week

7% are exposed to more than 50 hours of screen time per week

Source: American Heart Association’s 48th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

Prolonged exposure to rapid image changes during critical periods of brain development (like on a TV show designed for an infant) may precondition the mind to expect high levels of stimulation.  This may then make the pace of real life less able to sustain our children’s attention. The more hours a child views rapid-fire television, the more likely they will have attention challenges later in life.


  1. Kids under 2-years-old should not watch any TV
  2. Kids older than 2 should watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming. Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics


 Internet Addiction Disorder

Salience: Using the Internet dominates the person’s life, feelings and behavior.

Mood modification: The person experiences changes in mood (e.g., a “buzz”) when using the Internet.

Tolerance: Increasing amounts of Internet use are needed to achieve the same effects on mood.

Withdrawal symptoms: If the person stops using the Internet, they experience unpleasant feelings or physical effects.

Relapse: The addict tends to relapse into earlier patterns of behavior, even after years of abstinence or control. (Griffiths, 2003)

Iowa State University Professor Douglas Gentile found that 8.5% of 1,178 youths studied are addicted to video games, using the same standards for addiction used for pathological gamblers.

Youth included in the study played video games 24 hours per week. They were more likely to have video games in the bedroom. Youth addicted to video games were also twice as likely to have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Youth studied were found to have attention deficits in school, lower grades, were inclined to steal, and had more health problems.

Teens, who play violent video games, may exhibit lingering effects on brain function, including increased activity in the region of the brain that governs emotional arousal and decreased activity in the brain’s executive function, which is associated with control, focus and concentration. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Compared with the group that played the nonviolent game, the group that played the violent video game demonstrated less activation in the prefrontal portions of the brain, which are involved in inhibition, concentration and self-control, and more activation in the amygdala, which is involved in emotional arousal.

A study in China has shown that teens spending at least five- to 10-hours a day on the web are one-and-a-half times more likely to develop depression than moderate users

A loss of interest in social interaction and other symptoms of addictive behavior is present among teens who spend an excessive amount of time browsing or playing games online.

Some teens show signs of anxiety while away from the computer.

Why do Kids Play Internet Games?

  • Achievement
  • Exploration
  • Socialization
  • Killing

What Can Parents Do

Few children are excited to have the activities they love taken away or limited.  When making a change to the habits in your home, provide logical reasoning for placing a limit.  Your child does not have to agree with you, but, by providing fact-based reasoning, you demonstrate working in the best interest of the child rather than a sudden burst of authority.

If you feel your child is engaged in TV or Video Games extensively and want them to do something else, help to give alternative activities to meet similar needs. Here is a list of more positive, real-world based activities to supplement your child’s technology usage:

SPORTS                           YOUTH GROUP                           SCOUTS

NATURE                          SCHOOL CLUBS                          FINE ARTS

Remember, you are the parent and the role model for healthy living.  Help your child make healthy choices by setting an example and making a change for the family and not only the child.

Begin the conversation by identifying family and personal values, and then move towards negative behaviors you have seen increase/exist.

Meeting Your Child’s Emotional Needs

  • Expect to meet with resistance initially and allow for your child to voice opinion and show emotion
  • When setting a limit, provide a replacement activity for your child while making a transition to a new habit/behavior
  • Be clear that you are setting a boundary rather than entering negotiations
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings and argument against making a change. Remember acknowledging is not agreeing, it just shows “you heard” your child
  • Listen and show empathy without changing your position
  • Be consistent in your expectations and have clear consistent consequences that are enforceable
  • Provide verbal and non-verbal encouragement when your child is making appropriate choices
  • Note positive changes you observe: better sleeping habits, increased productivity, greater patience and tolerance, respectful communication . . .

Concrete Limits and Boundaries That Can and Need to Be Set



You can contact Daniel Folmer to schedule an appointment or arrange for Daniel to come speak to your group about Internet Gaming at:

  • 214-499-0396
  • or visit the web site

Additional recourses:

How TV affects your child:

Internet Addiction increases depression in teens:

Even TV in the background Impacts Brain Development:

Positive Technological Avenues:

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Defusing Family Conflicts Before they Erupt

Recently I was interviewed by Dallas Ft. Worth North Texas Child magazine as their mental health expert for a special issue they are working on. Specifically, they wanted to know more about family conflict and sibling rivalry.

Here is my interview:

Question: ”My kids squabble over everything. How do I help moderate these family feuds so they’re learning to get along, not just with each other, but with everyone?”

Answer: Last week I had the pleasure of eating lunch with my daughter, a third grade teacher in a North Texas school district.  Because this was one of those rare dismal, cold and rainy days, the students couldn’t go outside for mid-day recess.  Instead many used the free time as a study hall.  As my daughter and I talked, occasionally a student would approach and ask Kelly a question about their work.

I felt a combination of motherly and professional pride as I watched her deftly guide the youngsters to discovering their own answers, helping them realize where they’d gone wrong along the way.  One little girl in particular was making the common mistake of misinterpreting the questions, and I was instantaneously brought back to when I would frequently make this same mistake as this child.

When lunch was over the whole class came back from recess and continued their school day. I hung around for a little while and what I saw and heard were 20+ students clamoring for attention, seeking answers to questions and desiring guidance. This quest for feedback was combined with them wanting to get their basic needs meet, such as going to the bathroom, checking insulin levels, etc.   Before I knew it, I had such a big impish smile on my face that Kelly asked, “What are you thinking?!”

“It’s amazing to see and hear how the 8 year-old brain works,” I answered.  “I’m reminded in a very concrete manner that these children do not process information anything like we adults do.”

Far too often, adults forget or just do not realize that their children are not “little grownups.” Their brains are not neurologically capable of processing information like our adult brains do. Children’s brains are still building new connections, changing, growing and moving towards a cognitive maturity they won’t reach for a number of years.

For example, the 8 year-old brain is in the process of developing logical and concrete thinking, but still has a very limited ability to extend logic to abstract concepts.  This shows up in the highly imaginative and illogical thinking of early childhood.

The cerebral cortex is the largest part of the brain, and is where the gray matter responsible for the “higher” functions of thinking and information processing resides.  This area, when fully developed at age 24 for women and 27 for men, and enables us to grasp abstract concepts.

That means the 8 year old boys in my daughters 3rd grand class are 19 years away from being able to completely understand the concepts their parents are trying to communicate.

As a parent this means you need to continually realize your children will process information differently than you do.  It’s not stubbornness or defiance – that blank look they give you may mean your child is simply unable to mentally grasp what you’re telling them.  I tell parents it’s like speaking in a different language — your child can physically hear your words, but they honestly do not comprehend you.

I’ve found positive family communication increases dramatically when parents learn to speak their child’s language.  When parents can “see the world through their child’s eyes,” they are better able to understand their youngsters, and effectively guide them.

After I shared this concept of “seeing the world through your child’s eyes” with one mother, she admitted that she thought her son was just being stubborn and wanting his way.  She attributed his yelling and screaming as a calculated means to achieve his goal, and his dramatic acting-out was making the whole family angry and miserable.

When the mother switched tactics and worked at seeing the world as he experienced it, she became awestruck at what she discovered.  She now realized that her son was not a bratty screaming child – but a very scared child.   Her heart ached when she saw her son was so fearful that all he knew how to do was scream to get her attention. Once she knew her child was simply scared, she was able to help him—and become a better parent in the process.  The boy’s behavior quickly changed for the positive.

The mother of an adolescent came to me seeking help to understand why her daughter continues to not read the social cues others give her, and constantly picks fights with her friends and family.  As I helped her “see the world through her daughter eyes,” she learned that in the developing adolescent brain the limbic system, which governs emotions and behavior, is closely linked to the still maturing prefrontal cortex.

The way this powerful connection shows up, an adult who observes a group of people looking in their direction and laughing might feel an emotional response in the limbic system, but probably won’t respond in any way because the prefrontal cortex (which acts as a sort of mental traffic cop) would say, “It’s okay.  It’s not about you.” An adolescent, on the other hand, might mistakenly make the unpleasant assumption that the people were laughing at her and become upset, angry, or defensive.

Adolescents just are not as good at interpreting facial expressions and nonverbal signals, in part because the prefrontal cortex is not yet lending the limbic system a hand.

My suggestions would be to continue to open your mind to the fact that your children aren’t intentionally trying to sabotage the family dynamic – they just need a little extra guidance in understanding and interpreting appropriate behavior.

If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group or find out more about her counseling practice, you can contact her at: Kay@KayTrotter.com214-499-0396, or visit her web site

Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page

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