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The impact of screen time on children | What parents need to know?

Are you using your phone as an ‘electronic baby-sitter’ while you finish some pressing tasks? Handing your phone to your child so that they listen to ‘educational rhymes’ or eat their food in peace is setting a very wrong precedent.


In this article you’ll know how screen time affects children, recommended age-wise screen time, and the positive and negative sides of screen time for children.

Let’s dig in!


Screen Time and How it Affects children?


Screen time refers to the amount of time spent using electronic devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets, televisions, and video game consoles. It includes any activity that involves looking at a screen and doing minimal physical activity, thus reducing the output and increasing the input of the body.


Screen time is a common concern for parents, educators, and health professionals, as excessive screen time can have negative effects on physical and mental health, sleep patterns, and social development, especially in children and adolescents.


Early data from the landmark National Institute of Health(NIH) study indicated that children spending more than 2 hours a day on screen scored less in thinking and language tests whereas, children with more than 7 hours of screen time experienced thinning of the brain cortex, the brain area responsible for critical thinking and reasoning. As mentioned in the study, the data represents more than 11000 kids studied over a decade.


According to the World Health Organization’s recommendations, sedentary screen time is not recommended for babies under 2 years of age, and for those aged 2-4 years the screen time should be of 1 hour or less.


Negative Impacts of screen time on children


It is an illusion that your child is not exposed to screens. Your child is constantly being exposed to the screen via others in the environment, also known as second-hand screen time. When you’re using your device, watching television, or working on your P.C., having your child around these times means exposing them to screens. Both direct screen time and second-hand screen time have various negative impacts on a child.


Sensory Impacts


Synaptic connections are formed by early experiences. The period between the newborn stage and 2 years is the peak developmental stage for a child, where their brains grow to its 3 times. During this phase, exposing them to the digital screen will reduce physical activities and shunt synaptic connections thus prohibiting their brain growth and neural connections responsible for sensory development.


Social and communication skills


“Viewer passivity” is a term used for excessive exposure to visual experiences where images and ideas are directly implanted into the head. This leaves no room for independent thoughts and deprives a person to socialize and communicate with others.


Talking about young children, constantly staring at a screen with images and information directly implanted into their heads without their participation leaves no room for communication.


Further, children exposed to real-time play and activities for early brain development and learning result in constant thought processes about their surrounding increasing engagement with peers and parents.


Lower Attention Span


High-quality videos streaming today, such as cartoons and kid movies, have 8-10 or more cuts per second. More visuals are shown in less time resulting in a decrease in interest in other activities that are slow comparatively.


Comparing watching videos or animations to reading, studies have shown that children who spend more time on their screens have less patience and attention toward reading. This drastically affects their academic performance and language development abilities.


Sleep problems


The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt sleep patterns, which can be particularly problematic for children whose bodies and brains are still developing.

Especially at times when parents use TV to wind down before bed. The light from TVs signals the brain that it’s still not time to sleep, inhibiting the secretion of sleep hormones which results in difficulty falling asleep.

Benefits of Screen Time

Although screen time is detrimental to children, especially for children below the age of 2, given constant inspection and control, it can have several benefits as well in a child’s growth.

Learning and educational opportunities

With the advancement of technology, there are now countless educational resources available for children online. Educational apps, videos, and games can help children learn new concepts and develop various skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking. Screen time can be a valuable tool in facilitating a child's learning and intellectual growth.


Braintastic has flashcard-based learning programs, to bring the innate potential of children in 3-5 minutes a day.

Socialization

Screen time can also provide opportunities for children to connect with others, particularly in today's digital age. Children can use video chat, messaging apps, or online multiplayer games to interact with their peers and even make new friends. This is especially important for children who may have difficulty socializing in traditional settings due to shyness or other factors.

Entertainment and relaxation

In addition to educational content, screen time can also offer a fun and entertaining way for children to relax and unwind. Watching a favorite show or playing a game can provide a much-needed break from the stresses of daily life, especially for children who may not have access to other forms of entertainment due to geographical or financial limitations.

How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Kids?

It’s up to the parents to decide how much screen time is to be given to a child and it may vary given the age group and individual circumstances and factors such as the type of screen time activity, the quality of the content, and the child's developmental needs.

Here are the average screen time recommendations by age according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Infants 0-18 months: Screen time is not recommended, except for limited video chatting with family or friends.

  • Toddlers 18-24 months: Limited screen time of up to watching educational programs with a parent or caregiver.

  • Preschoolers 2-5 years: Limited screen time of up to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, accompanied by an adult.

  • Children 6 years and above: Consistent limits on screen time and a balance of activities, with no more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time.

Tips for Parents to Manage Their Child’s Screen Time


Although challenging for parents, there are various steps that can be taken to limit and manage your child’s screen time to ensure their use of technology is safe and healthy. Some valuable tips to help you around:


Set boundaries: Establish clear rules and expectations around technology use, such as when and where devices can be used, and for how long. Make sure your child understands the consequences of breaking these rules.


Monitor their use: Keep an eye on your child's screen time, especially if they are young or new to using technology. This can help you identify any potential issues and ensure that your child is engaging in safe and appropriate online activities.


Use parental control apps: Consider using parental control apps or features built into devices to help limit your child's access to certain types of content or apps. These can also help you monitor their use and set time limits.


Encourage a healthy balance: Encourage your child to engage in a variety of offline activities, such as playing outside, reading, or spending time with friends and family. This can help create a healthy balance between online and offline activities.


Be a good role model: Children often model their behavior after their parents, so make sure you are setting a good example when it comes to technology use. Put down your own devices and engage in offline activities with your child.


Educate your child: Talk to your child about the potential risks and benefits of technology use, and help them develop the skills they need to use technology in a safe and responsible way.


To sum up


In conclusion, while screen time can have both positive and negative effects on children, it is important for parents to be aware of the risks and benefits and to carefully monitor and control their child's use of technology. As the world becomes more and more reliant on technology, it is essential that we find a healthy balance between screen time and other activities. By staying informed and making conscious decisions, we can ensure that our children develop into healthy, well-rounded individuals. If you’ve read so far, you’re a serious parent! Happy Parenting!


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