Transcript for Parents with 2 young kids obsessed with electronic devices get an intervention
We are back with a growing problem for parents in this digital age about something a psychiatrist calls electronic screen syndrome. It describes children who are obsessed with their devices, "20/20" anchor Elizabeth vargas has one family's story. Good morning, absolutely. We all know about this. Those of us who are parents and are dealing with this. One study shows teens spend nearly seven hours every day on electronic devices. Younger kids, tweens, nearly five hours a day. Ottom ottomans said they put their kids on a diet banning all electronics for four weeks. What do you think you're doing? Reporter: You are watching a covert mission in progress. Sneaking what? The devices. Reporter: 5-year-old Taylor and her brother 8-year-old Jackson are desperate to play on their devices. Guys, I told you only ten minutes of device time. Reporter: Their mother autumn says their kids' use of electronics is out of control. I never get tired of my device. No, you can wait to check on your YouTube. The first thing out of their mouth is, hey, mom, what do I have to do? Do I have to read, do this? Frustrating. Reporter: There are meltdowns at home. Please. Reporter: And on the go. So here's Jackson throwing a fit because he can't play with the games. Is there some sort of test or experiment a parent can do to see if their child does have a problem with this? Number one is it negatively impacting their live, school, academics? Are they socially isolating more or sleep getting disregulated. Reporter: Autumn says she's had enough. We have to find control in here. Reporter: ABC news connects the family with child psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Dunklee author of "Reset your child's brain" coined a name for kids' obsession with devices, electronic screen syndrome. The child goes into a state of hyper aprowsal and the brain just starts to malfunction so you see problems with focus, behavior and mood. Jackson, it's difficult for him to focus. I would say my daughter, she has more behavioral issues. Reporter: Dr. Dunckley convinced them to do a four-week fast. Do they still have attention symptoms? Are they misbehaving as much? We'll actually have no devices for four weeks. And we're going to see what happens. Reporter: Mom locks the devices in storage. And as the days go by, the kids start to try some new things. When the kids come home and they just go outside which is not something they had done before. Reporter: And join a class. Well, me and Taylor, we both joined jujitsu. Reporter: At the end of the four-week fast everyone is spending more time together as a family. I like to play with my sister even more than I did before. Reporter: Jackson is spending more time reading, Dr. Dunckley finds Taylor's meltdowns decreased and attention span increased. When they're too attached to technology but what's so obvious all those other problems related to mood, behavior and focus. Reporter: As for the future of those devices. There is a time and place for it. We're trying to find that balance. I think we all have to be really careful that we realize that social media does not replace the social experience. That's my girl. Now, autumn and Chad say they'll keep this fast going as long as they can. They did the four-week fast. It's been three weeks since the end of the fast and only asked for their devices two time, robin. Had they do introduce electronics they plan to go slow. A little at a time, really limiting the time. How long did it take for them to settle down? Good question. Taking them away, it was about two weeks of rough going in the family. Any parent trying this, be aware of that that it could be rough. What other advice do you have if somebody wants to try at home. The parents need to remove them from the home. The kids we saw at the beginning were 123450sneaking around looking for then. Take them out of the home. Make sure your kids know that. You should not be on your phones or devices. Set an example. Try not to be on your own devices as well and the other thing we saw in the piece, plan a lot of activities in the first especially week or two weeks so that they're not screaming and going out of their minds. Replace it with something. Withdrawal. There is and you have spent so much time on this and go in depth on "20/20." We spent a year embedding with several families with teenagers whose use of electronic devices has really gone way beyond what you just saw. They feel like they're addicted to it and stopped going to school. Up all night. The house is in an uproar. Families have had to take dramatic measures and spend a lot of time with the husband because the average gamer is 35 years old. Goodness. All right. We have one man, his story. These families are brave to let us in because we see extraordinary things. Thanks for sharing. We'll have more tomorrow on "Gma" and then, of course, on "20/20" tomorrow night. Coming up that new sunscreen
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