“Doctor, what effects does more screen-time have on children?” A 4 year old patient’s mother asked me. And, to answer all such mothers, I thought I should write on this particular topic.
First of all, let’s understand what does more screen-time mean? And, what all is included and considered as screen?
Screen devices include mobile, iPad, any other tablet, television and laptop.
As per American Academy of Pediatrics, more screen time is defined as - “the use of screen devices two plus hours a day for children over the age of two.” I am sure, if you calculate all our children must be facing this issue of more screen-time.
Now, Let us see how it can affect children:
Physically, the children become inactive as they just sit at one place and watch TV or play games or watch something on mobile or tablets which in turn become a factor in increasing incidences of childhood obesity. Incidences of childhood obesity are increasing day by day with the kind of life style we are leading. Children nowadays eat a lot of junk food and do not play outdoor games which can burn the calories and make them stronger physically.
We all know that it also affects eye sight of the children as the distance between the eyes and screen is quite less in case of mobiles, tablets and laptops. Many children complain of irritation in the eyes, burning or itching in eyes. Some kids also get redness of the eye.
As these screens have blue light in them, overuse of screens in the evening and late evening time can affect sleep cycle. Blue light in the sun light is required to stimulate the brain when we wake up in the morning. Blue light exposure in late evening still keeps brain stimulated and children can have difficulty in falling asleep.
This can also cause speech and language delay as child does not communicate much with people around. Speech and language development requires constant stimulation of brain centre related to speech and language. This can only happen when a child is talking and communicating to and fro with people around. If child is constantly watching at some or the other screen, there is no interaction from his/her side; it’s a one way street.
More screen-time can also decrease attention span of the child. Children become more and more impatient. They get bored easily. They want constant stimulation and excitement which in turn also affects their reading and doing abilities.
Playing violent games and watching such videos make children hyperactive, aggressive, fearful and insensitive. It affects their psyche and they start getting pleasure in violence. Some children also develop behavioral issues at home and school. As I mentioned earlier, children can face emotional blunting and lack appropriate emotional reactions. Some children are also diagnosed to have childhood depression.
It also affects their creative skills and critical thinking abilities. They do not know how to face challenges in real world. Virtual world becomes world for them.
Studies also show that children with more screen time are at risk of developing learning disability and ADHD.
“Knowledge without application is useless!”
Even after knowing the effects, if we do not try to control it – it’s useless.
Read my article “Children, Gadgets and You” for ways to deal with children in such cases.
Have a happy and healthy childhood for your child!
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