Are your kids overstimulated?


Inattentive, oppositional, rude, too aggressive, anxious and disrespectful behaviors are all symptoms of a child or teen that may be over-stimulated by something in his or her environment.  Such symptoms are often mistaken for some sort of psychological problem when the first thing that should be evaluated is whether or not a child is being exposed to material that may be too much for him to her to handle based on their developmental age.  Between television and social media these days, the world of sex, aggression and overly mature contents are at the fingertips of children’s cell phones, computers, cellular phones and Pods. Even prime time television has become more stimulating over the past decade and many parents have no clue as to both whether or not their child is watching or viewing these materials or the potential effects that they have on their child’s psyche.

Over stimulation is when a child takes in or internalizes material that causes too much anxiety for them to handle due to either making them feel afraid or guilty.  Unlike most adults who can calm themselves down, when faced with explicit stimuli, kids and teens are different.  If you have a child or a teen, then you know what I am talking about.  They get caught up in the moment and often can’t get out of it.  An example would be when you try to reason with your child about something and no matter what, they can’t let it go and a breather is often the only solution.  But, if you do not get to the bottom of what is causing distress in your child, then it will continue to manifest itself and the child continues to suffer.

In the old days, television and the computer were relatively benign.  These days, the world of technology has made parenting 10 times harder and makes us baby boomers and others have to reach deep to better help our youth navigate through the world today.  In a sense, culture has become more primitive and less civilized whereby basic biological drives are shown in the most raw forms in all aspects of the media.  This is not a good thing.  In fact, I believe that most children who watch television, or have a computer or a G3 or G4 phone are subject to some form of over-stimulation at least weekly as we as parents don’t even know it until some sign appears which catches our attention.

Here are some statistics that show just how much of a problem we have on our hands.  The average age an American child is first exposed to pornography is 11 years old, an article in the current issue of Family Therapy Magazine reports.  And, a recent study found that the majority of teenagers look at pornography while doing their homework.  It will surprise you to learn that the largest viewers of online pornography are children between the ages of 12 and 17.  These statistics come from the non-profit advocacy organization.

Aside from the curiosity that may draw a teen onto a website that might overwhelm them is the fact that most kids often inadvertently stumble upon sexual or aggressive explicit material while doing otherwise innocent internet searches, or by simply opening up an email.  In fact, according to one study, 34 percent of adolescents reported being exposed to unwanted sexual material online.  Another study conducted five years later showed that figure to have risen to 43 percent.

One component of overstimulation that has received much attention has been that the effects it can cause may lead to actions that might negatively affect the development of a teenager’s personality.  For example, young viewers of pornography are statistically more likely to engage in sexual intercourse at an earlier age than their unexposed peers.  It may not be too surprising that 80 percent of online pornography viewing by children occurs at home right under mom and dad’s noses.

These new studies focus on how over-stimulating, or age-inappropriate material, can negatively influence both the behavior and potential character of a developing person.  The studies that confirm similar negative consequences concerning the exposure to overly aggressive materials through television, gaming, and social media are now pretty much “old news.”  So, in a nutshell, kids these days are being bombarded with “too much, too early” and it is clear that parents cannot rely on outside regulators to parent or protect our children.  The truth is that each parent should do just that.  Parent your own child and take responsibility for what your child comes into contact with when they are with you.  Parents have little control what kids these days come into contact with at school and at other people’s hoes unless you go with them which would obviously not be welcomed by any child over the age of 9.

But, what parents teach at home is the heaviest weight that goes into decision making for any healthy child.  In other words, your kids carry you and your rules, actions, opinions, and caring with them 24 hours a day, even when they are 14 and tell you that they “can’t stand you.”  When they come into a situation, which carries conflict, home is a heavy contender for the outcome of their decision.  Therefore, what you teach and preach at home goes a long way even if your kids tell you that you are “crazy and no other parent is like you.”  Sound familiar?   Every parent of any teenager is “crazy” for they are the reality checks for illogical logic a lot of the time in the mind of a young teenager.

So, here are some “crazy” things parents need to do to better help their child from becoming overwhelmed with the plethora of stimuli presented to their eyes, ears and fingertips.


  1. Keep all modes of social media in public areas of your house.  Pick a place in your home where everybody has their computer operating.  Kids are less likely to go onto an inappropriate website if their parents are close by.


  1. Follow the ratings for computer games, television, movies, and other forms of materials that your kids can get their hands onto.  M means mature, and T means teen.  They may find ways to get them at someone else’s house, but Your House is home and that matters most.


  1. TiVo or record your shows and watch them after the kids go to sleep.  Often times we as adults get sloppy and sometimes forget that we are watching a show too mature for our kids together.



  1. Have a cell phone basket in the kitchen where everybody places their phone at a certain time of night and signs off until the morning. Recent research suggests that all media instruments, from television to cellular phones should be turned off at least one hour before bed time and calming activities should be introduced such as reading.


  1. Parents need to determine the “right time” for their kids to be exposed to certain things based on both their child’s development and maturity in conjunction with the parents beliefs and standards.


Together, such precautions contribute to calmer kids and calmer households.

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