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Doctors in Texas have a simple message for families: Turn off your devices

The Texas Medical Association launched an initiative to ask families to pledge to take a break from electronic devices to help improve children's mental health.

SAN ANTONIO — Doctors across Texas are asking families for one simple thing when it comes to improving children's mental health. They want families to pledge to take a break from electronic devices.

The Texas Medical Association launched an initiative to encourage families to take the Turn It Off Today pledge. The push suggests kids and parents should pause the use of electronic devices because they could be harming their health.

As the pandemic continues, doctors are also continuing to see more people suffering mental and behavioral health problems. Some say they see connections between people’s suffering and overuse of electronic devices in young people.

“The goal of Turn It Off Today is to help families recognize there is a direct correlation between excessive screen time and poor emotional and physical well-being, and to understand electronic devices are addictive,” said Eman Attaya, MD, immediate past chair of the TMA Council on Health Promotion, which recently launched the initiative statewide.

Dr. Attaya and other doctors created and piloted Turn It Off Today in 2019 for families in the Lubbock area.

The idea is to replace screen time with healthier habits and activities, such as:

  • physical activity
  • social interaction
  • reading
  • “green time” (time outdoors)

It's estimated that children spend at least four hours daily on "leisure-based screen time" (and up to nine hours total screen time per day).

Research shows the more time people, especially adolescents, spend looking at social media and other activities on their screens, the greater their rates of depression and anxiety.

“Yes, the pandemic worsened the crisis; however, there have actually been increasing rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide in youth before the pandemic – over the last 10 years – with suicide now the second leading cause of death among people age 10 to 24,” Dr. Attaya said.

To sign the Turn It Off Today pledge, click here.

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