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Table of contents:
• Difficulties due to screen time
• Tips to avoid screen time
• Guidelines from reputable organization
In today’s society, the proliferation of cellphones and tablets has made these devices increasingly essential for both children and adults. However, it is imperative to explore the adverse effects of excessive screen time and how to mitigate them, particularly when it comes to children who are often glued to their mobile devices.
Difficulties due to screen time:
Screen time encompasses the duration spent in front of various screen-equipped devices such as mobile phones, tablets, TVs, computers, and laptops. For children, any time spent viewing these screens falls under the umbrella of screen time. Unfortunately, excessive screen time can lead to a myriad of issues, each warranting careful consideration:
1. Eye Problems: Our eyes naturally blink about 20 times per minute, but when children are engrossed in screens, they often forget to blink. This leads to dry eyes, eye irritation, and even blurriness over time. These issues can disrupt sleep patterns, hinder communication skills, brain development, and potentially contribute to behavioral disorders like autism.
2. Speech Delay: Screen time often involves one-way communication, where children are passive consumers of content. This lack of interaction can lead to speech delay since language development primarily occurs through communication with others. Excessive screen time can isolate children from social bonding and hinder their ability to express themselves.
3. Age-Dependent Issues: The impact of screen time varies with age. In children under 5 years, excessive screen use can negatively affect brain development, while in older children, it is more likely to lead to eye-related problems.
4. Physical Strain: Prolonged screen use can result in physical strain, leading to neck, shoulder, and back problems, especially if children maintain poor posture while using these devices.
5. Addiction: The content on mobile devices often triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Over time, children may become addicted to the instant gratification screens provide, potentially compromising their overall well-being.
6. Obesity: Excessive screen time often replaces physical activity. Children who spend hours on mobile devices are less likely to engage in active play with friends, increasing the risk of obesity.
7. Sleep Disruption: Late-night screen use can disrupt a child’s sleep patterns, leading to reduced brain development, memory issues, blurred vision, mental health challenges, obesity, and various other health concerns.
Tips to avoid screen time:
• Lead by Example: Reducing screen time for the entire family sets a positive precedent. Limiting adult screen use when children are present is crucial since children learn from their caregivers.
• Education and Communication: Parents should educate children about the potential problems associated with excessive screen time. Open communication about these issues can foster an understanding of the importance of moderation.
• No Separate Devices: It’s advisable not to provide children with their separate mobile phones or tablets. Shared family devices can help in monitoring and regulating screen time.
• Promoting Alternative Activities: When children request access to mobile devices, it’s beneficial to divert their attention toward alternative and engaging activities. Activities such as reading stories or taking them outdoors for physical play can not only distract them from screens but also contribute to their cognitive and physical development.
• Emphasizing Creative Play: Instead of resorting to mobile phones or tablets, offering children a variety of toys and games can foster creativity. At a young age, children possess a natural inclination for imaginative play, which can be further nurtured by providing them with toys that encourage exploration and innovation.
• Balancing Indoor and Outdoor Play: Encouraging children to participate in both indoor and outdoor games is essential. Indoor games can stimulate cognitive skills, while outdoor activities promote physical health and social interaction.
• Cautionary Measures to Avoid: Addressing screen addiction can be challenging once it takes hold. Hence, it is crucial to implement preventive measures and foster a balanced screen-time routine from the start.
• Mealtime Screen Avoidance: Parents should refrain from allowing children to use mobile devices during meals. Using screens as a mealtime distraction may hinder the growth of crucial cognitive and social skills, which are more important than simply focusing on weight gain.
• Pre-Bedtime Screen Time Avoidance: To ensure adequate sleep hygiene and optimal rest, it is advisable for the entire family to limit screen time at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. This practice supports better sleep patterns and overall well-being.
• Avoiding Immediate Comfort: It’s important not to console a child with screen time when they cry or express a desire for it. This can easily become a habit and hinder the development of healthier coping mechanisms.
• Screen Time Breaks: During periods of screen use, children should be encouraged to take regular breaks every 20 minutes.
Guidelines from Reputable Organizations:
Recognized pediatric authorities such as the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), and the World Health Organization (WHO) have provided valuable recommendations regarding screen time for children. The IAP recommends no screen time for children under 2 years of age, with exceptions made for video calls with relatives. For children aged 2 to 5 years, up to one hour of screen time is considered acceptable, provided it is utilized for educational and entertainment purposes. For children aged 5 to 10 years, a maximum of 2 hours of screen time is suggested, again with an emphasis on productive and educational content. Above 10 years, it is expected that children themselves recognize the potential problems linked to excessive screen use, and efforts should be made to reduce screen time as much as possible.
In sum, these strategies and precautions are vital in promoting healthier screen-time habits for children, ultimately fostering their holistic development and well-being in today’s digital age.