Screen time and kids health
As technologies are improving, it is more and more common to introduce our children to screen time. Screen time is the amount of time spent on media devices such as TV, mobile phones, computers, tablets, etc.
More and more parents turn to these technological devices to keep their children “preoccupied”. This is to keep them from crying or from climbing on the furniture and so on.
But what does screen time actually do to your child?
Your Child becomes less engaged in their real time environment = less sensory stimulationChildren naturally learn from their envitonment. Physical activities ranging from crawling to walking around the house and interacting with the family members are all fundamental to their growth. Whilst a child is engaged in screen time they are in a passive state; hence, they are sensory-deprived. In line with this, their brain development is reduced significantly compared to those whose senses are stimulated by the real-time environment as seen in the figure below.
Too much screen time weakens communication and social skillsSpeaking of stimulation, screen time gives little to no room for communication and social skills. This is known as “viewer passivity”. This takes place when the young minds are subjected to the never-ending stream of images while unknowingly inhibiting their natural capability to communicate and socialise.
Longer exposure to rapid image-changes increases the risk of attention problemsDue to air-time constraints, images are jammed together in a steady stream that “fractures your attention while condensing and accellerating time”. If young children are then exposed to these rapid image-changes, they would most likely find real-time events or ordinary life, such as a teacher discussing subjects in front of them, dull, slow, or boring. This triggers them to talk and disturb their classmates or do something irrelevant.
Screen time is commonly associated with childhood hyperactivityAs innocuous as it may seem, most cartoon shows today have violent content in them. The images that suggest violence stimulate our fight-or-flight instincts. But since it is absurd to react to the implied violence, the viewer suppresses the emotion.
Screen time increases risks of weight gain and sleep-deprivationThe major concern, eventually, comes in when screen-based activities substitute for physical activities. Too often, children are encouraged to use technological devices rather than playing outside. And since children stay indoors for longer periods of time, they are less engaged in physical and outdoor activities. Lack of physical exercise can be a factor in weight gain. The blue light rays from these screen-based devices also affect their sleep-wake cycle. Physical activities are forms of exercise that enable the body to control blood flow, boost mood, and regulate one’s appetite. Physical activities such as outdoor play face-to-face peer conversations, playing board games with family members etc. are generally connected to more positive outcomes for children’s behaviour.
Instead of offering screen time to your children truly BE with your children, meaningfully present and attentive. When you are with your child in the same room but you are on your phone or tablet, your child knows that you are not available, and energetically not “here and now” with him or her. They feel disconnected.
Playing with children is a way to: have fun, create memories, build a stronger bond, increase communication and language skills, learn how to take turns, develop strategies, with planning, anticipating and organizing skills. And if you are using screen time to take a break, or because you need to do something specific instead, encourage your child to play alone. This will help them work toward independence, increase their creativity and imagination, improve their problem-solving skills and patience.
When older children are using screens more independently, it is important to talk to them about the content they are allowed to watch and not watch, to set boundaries, and to install parental control in order to block inappropriate content.