Parents with 2 young kids obsessed with electronic devices get an intervention

Autumn, a mother of two from Texas, had just caught her 8-year-old son Jackson red-handed.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked him and his 5-year-old sister, Taylor.

“Sneaking,” the little boy responded.

“Sneaking what?” Autumn asked.

“The devices,” he said, giggling.

ABC News
Autumn, a mother of two from Texas, and her family agreed to go four weeks without using electronic devices.

Autumn said her kids are desperate to play on their electronic devices every free moment. It’s gotten to the point where they often ignore her when she tries to put time limits on their use and go into full meltdown mode when she tries to take them away.

“The first thing out of their mouths is, ‘Hey mom, I want to get on the device. What do I have to do? Do I have to read? Do I have to do this?’” Autumn said. “So just definitely frustrated.”

Watch the full story on ABC News’ “20/20” on Friday, May 19, at 10 p.m. ET.

Fed up, Autumn and her family agreed to have ABC News connect them with child psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Dunckley, author of the book “Reset Your Child’s Brain,” for a mini-intervention. Dunckley said she coined a name for kids’ obsession with devices: electronic screen syndrome, or when she says the nervous system is overstimulated with too much screen time.

“The child goes into a state of hyper-arousal, and the brain just starts to malfunction, so you see problems with focus, behavior and mood,” she said. “A lot of times with screen-time issues, people tend to blame the parents. They just say, ‘Oh, this is a parenting issue,’ and that’s not actually true. A lot of families will actually restrict screen time pretty well, but the kids can still have symptoms.” Some experts says other underlying issues might be fueling this behavior, but Dunkley believes removing screens is the only way to tell.

Autumn’s husband, Chad, acknowledged that their children’s constant electronics use seem to…

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