Today I am going to tell you about a fascinating study I read about recently in, of all places, the Journal of Anesthesia. I know, what was I doing there. Sometimes my reading takes me to strange places. I read about the article in a Reuters news piece but I thought it was so interesting that I had to do a post on the subject. The authors were trying to answer the question, “Which is better at lowering anxiety in children about to have surgery, an iPad or traditional anxiety drugs like Versed or Xanax?” Just watch this amazing video from the investigators to see how it can work, https://vimeo.com/62312705. The authors designed a study to answer anaesthsia versus ipad question, using children ages 1-11 who were about to have surgery. To their surprise, they found the the iPad was far more effective at relieving the children’s anxiety about leaving their parents and going into an operating room than the standard drugs that are used for the purpose. Additional benefits were that the ipad group had a faster recovery after surgery and the ipads were far cheaper than the standard drugs that are used for this purpose.
So what does this really mean? Portable screens seem to be a great tool for anaesthesiologists to make the trauma of pre-op time easier but could there be a dark side to all this. If portable screens distract children from anxiety and discomfort so effectively, could they numb non pre-op children to a point where healthy anxiety is also removed? Let’s face it, we all did our homework, practiced the piano, and refrained from behavior that our parents disapproved BECAUSE we were anxious about the consequences. A little anxiety is good; a strong motivator directing your children’s behavior and decision processes. But if mindless screen time blunts this effect, what will happen if children’s lives become more and more consumed by portable screens? Do screens create a child that is not as motivated by negativity? You know that Doc Smo pearl, “Nothing changes behavior like consequences” or it’s corollary, “The school of natural consequences teaches AP life.”
On the other hand, maybe portable screens will be the savior of a generation that is being bathed in 24 hour news, instant video of everything, and seemingly more and more anxious children. Ask any pediatrician of my age and they will tell you that pediatrics used to be an infectious disease specialty and now it seems to being morphed into a branch of psychiatry, anxiety being our specialty. Maybe Darvon, Valium, and Xanax, the crutches of the late 20th century, will be supplanted by iPads, and Google glasses? Maybe doctors like me will be prescribing 45 minutes of iPad time for anxious children rather than powerful sedating drugs? Screen time may allow children to cope with disturbing information and situations where their instincts are just to scream and run… just like they feel outside the operating room.
Interesting stuff to think about, don’t you think? For more discussion of screens and your children, make sure you download or buy a copy of my book, Can Doesn’t Mean Should, Essential Knowledge for 21st Century Parents. I devote the entirety of chapter 3 to this subject. If you enjoy interesting information about kids and parenting, take a moment to subscribe to my blog at www.docsmo.com to get an email notice of the latest docsmo content. you are the reason I created this blog so take full advantage. Certainly the price is right…it’s FREE! This is Dr. Paul Smolen, recording in studio 1E, wondering if you should be in a big hurry, to lower your child’s worry? Until next time.
1. Pediatric Anesthesia