Screen time for kids and its side effects

Screen time for kids

Modern technology has introduced screens as an essential part of our lives. We might not take it as much of a problem. But it’s a huge issue for the children. Kids require continuous social and physical interaction to develop their innate inexperienced minds. Excessive screen usage eliminates this opportunity.

Excessive screen time for kids creates a boatload of problems. Some of them are discussed below:

1- Developmental problems

The kids possess excellent power of learning. And with age, this ability starts to diminish. Infant’s brains are clean slates, anything seen by a 1-year-old will get imprinted on his mind that the kid will practice the rest of his life. When children use screens more than social interactions, the brain’s development slows down, which affects the learning of speech and new words, hence has a direct impact on language development. Such children lack the skill of critical thinking and perform not as well as the other kids in  school and social life. Screens limit learning and focus. Such children are less attentive.

Screen time for kids and its side effects

Human minds retain the primitive requirements of evolution which are learning through socialization and interacting with others, screen usage limits that process.

2- Diminished physical health

Excessive usage of mobile phones and laptops is one of the major causes of poor health and obesity. Screens allow our kids to sit in one place, and play games and watch videos for long hours, hence the lack the mobility, results in eating more and moving less. Doctors encourage parents to allow their kids to play outdoor games with other children. This ensures a healthy body.

3- Changes in behavior

Kids who use screens more are more likely to develop stubborn and irritating behaviors. In extreme cases, this can result in depression among youngsters. According to research, it’s seen that the children who start using mobile devices at a younger age more tends to get addicted to them. This may result in self-harm when parents try to steal their addiction away.

4- Sleep deprivation

Our bodies start releasing Melatonin (the sleep hormone) at dusk and helps us feel sleepy at night. The blue light from screens antagonizes this effect and creates a hindrance in our sleep. In teenagers blue light-induced insomnia is common, but in kids, it can become a real problem if parents keep neglecting their children. Sleep deprivation can result in a disturbance in overall schedules, lack of energy throughout the day, skipping meals or eating at irregular times, lowering the ability of the child to learn and study. Many parents who complain about their child’s low scores in schools are the result of this problem

Now the question arises that how much screen time for kids is okay?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) following are the recommended guidelines in this regard:

  • Less than 18 months old: no screen time is recommended except for the interactive video calls.
  • 18-24 months old: only high-quality education-oriented positive content and parent should watch along and interact with the kid for learning.
  • 2-5 years old: for preschool kids, no more than 1hr per day of screen usage is recommended.
  • 6-12 years old: media usage must not create hindrance in sleep schedule, physical health activities, and other health behaviors.
  • 12 years old: parents must limit the usage by creating limitations like times and places when and where the kid must not be allowed to use screens.
Screen time for kids and its side effects

To lessen these ill-effects parents can adopt the following measures:

1- Watch with your kids

Watching with infants and interacting with them results in learning and developmental progress. It is believed that during the age of 1-3 years, language development takes place. Which happens in real-life interactions which are two-way communications. On the other hand, screens provide only one-way communication hence they eliminate that learning factor.

2– Choose media yourself

Choosing media by yourself helps in limiting the child’s tendency to watch negative and violent content. It’s better to first familiarize yourself with the media content, then and only then let your young one watch it. This will not only implement the control but also create a level of understanding as a parent.

3– Create screen-free times

Create a schedule for your kid, times when he or she is not allowed to use a mobile phone or laptop. For example during the night, at sleep times, while he has to study, when it’s time to eat. Educate your kid to prioritize real-life things over gaming and social media.

4– Parental controls

Nowadays children get their screens earlier in their lives. As compared to TV, which requires lesser control, mobile phones, tablets, and laptops demand excessive watch of parents, as with the ease of access to the internet is everywhere, kids can easily access contents that they are not supposed to see. That’s why many devices feature build-in parental control and screen time limiting.

5- Limit your own phone usage

It is said that child’s mind will try to mimic not what you say, but what you do. When a kid watches his parent using phone or laptop all the time, his mind says “it’s a great thing to do, because my dad does this”. That’s why it’s critical for parents to limit their own screen time to set an example for the kids.

Conclusion

With this era of online learning and working from home, it has become rather the most critical part of our lives to limit the exposure of our young ones to the screens. This not only will help regain us the social life but also help us in keeping our future generations away from the addiction of technology by retaining their social values and build healthy lifestyles.

Mr. Muhammad Aeraf

BS Applied Microbiology

University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore

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