In this era of gadgets and gizmos, avoiding screen time has become next to impossible. It’s actually counterintuitive to a productive way of life. Imagine going a day without checking your email for work — the world could very well fall apart. It isn’t quite the same for kids though. We’re seeing more and more teenagers dependent on their smartphones and social media, using it as a crutch for their self-esteem, entertainment, and even education in some ways.
The growing dependency has been linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety amongst them as well. The growing trend is spreading like ivy with time, and becoming more of a permanent fixture for younger kids too. Technology is being used as a pacifier and peacemaker for children as young as toddlers, with tiny hands that are too small to handle the big phones and tablets that have been foisted on them to distract them.
For a more definite definition, screen time is the time spent watching television, using the computer, playing video games, or using tablets and smartphones. Although these smart gadgets can stimulate a child’s brain and encourage their creativity, child development experts are actually encouraging parents to limit screen time for their young children as much as possible.
The latest guidelines from the American Academy of Paediatrics suggest that children younger than 18 months should have no screen time at all, other than occasional video chatting at the most. Children aged 18 months to 2 years can watch high definition apps or programs, only if adults watch or play with them to help them understand what they are seeing. Children 2 – 5 years should have no more than 1 hour a day of screen time, with adults watching or playing with them. Children aged 6 years and above should have consistent limits on the time they spend on electronic media. If these guidelines aren’t adhered to, your kids could encounter some very unpleasant and lingering problems.
1. Eye Trouble
Computer Vision Syndrome affects children and adults alike. Reduced frequency of blinking and continuous focus on screens leave their eyes dry and irritated. Blue light can also affect their eyesight and cause premature ageing of the eyes. Instruct them to blink often when they are using tablets. Do not let them play on tablets for extended periods of time, and make sure they take a 20-minute break after every 20 minutes of use. Children should have an annual comprehensive eye examination as well in order to track their eye health.
2. Physical Health Issues And Obesity
The more time a child spends on tablets, the lower their level of cardiovascular fitness becomes. They remain isolated, physically inactive, and ultimately adopt a sedentary lifestyle. Research has shown that excessive concentration on screens also makes them prone to developing unhealthy food habits. They can’t perceive the value of a healthy or unhealthy meal, and binge eat whatever junk they like. Mindlessly consuming food in front of a screen can also reduce their awareness of how much they are eating. Excessive reliance on iPads also impacts their motor skills. Sleep disturbance is another bothersome result.
3. Mood Swings & Behavioural Problems
Consuming videos and interactive games on tablets unsupervised makes children resistant to respond to other people and less empathic to their attitudes. They don’t want to communicate with anyone in the surroundings. They become argumentative and aggressive when they are asked to leave their gadgets, and this is the ultimate sign of dependence.
4. Attention Deficiency Issues
The common argument is that most children will actually benefit from spending time early on playing games with vibrant colours that are interactive and watching educational videos. This has largely taken over real-time games that used to involve building blocks, lego, and so on. In reality, online apps and videos make our children lazy by doing all the work for them. There is no learning curve to get around. They simply sit in one place as a screen does things for them. This is the kind of early learning activity that translates into how they behave later on, especially at school. With shorter attention spans and an inability to concentrate as well, they tend to work less efficiently and face more roadblocks as new concepts are introduced to them.
5. Stunted Growth
According to experts, the first 1 – 3 years of living in children is called the ‘critical period,’ because the brain develops very rapidly at this time. It needs authentic human interaction, stimuli, and signals from its surroundings to achieve healthy brain development. But if young children remain on tablets, they are unable to perceive what’s happening around them in any sort of depth, and it makes their brains prone to stunted growth. They grow up as individuals who find it difficult to empathise towards others or are unable to process and respond to their emotions. These kids struggle to interpret different human behaviours and emotions.