Volume 1 - Issue 1

Effects of screen time and role of parents to prevent its impact

L. Indumathi*

Nurse Educator, Kauvery Hospital, Salem, India

*Correspondence: indumaya1986@gmail.com

Background

Children's brain grows to about 80% of adult size by age 3 and 90% - nearly full grown - by age 5.90% of brain growth happens before Kindergarten. Hence, it is important to focus on brain health of the young and tender future generations.

The early years are the best opportunity for a child's brain to develop the connections they need to be healthy, capable, successful adults. The connections are needed for many important, higher-level abilities like motivation, self-regulation, problem-solving and communication to be formed. This process is hampered by the early use/ of addiction to electronic gadgets.

In today's tech and media-driven world, many parents use screens to keep young children entertained or distracted while they juggle with other demands on their time and attention. A major inducement for sedentary behavior in young people is screen time, which refers to time spent watching television or movies, playing video games, using computers and using mobiles. Screens captivate children's attention in a way almost nothing else does, allowing parents a bit of a breather. But what is the impact of screens on young brains and how much screen time should they be exposed to?

Impact of Excessive Screen time

Screens hijack attention spans

For children to be successful, they need to learn how to concentrate and focus. That ability starts to develop during their earliest years when their brains are more sensitive to the environments around them. For a brain to develop and grow, it needs essential stimuli from the outside world.

Screens curtail ability to control impulses

Young children need their dose of boredom. It teaches them how to cope with frustration and control their impulses. If young children are constantly being stimulated by screens, they forget how to rely on themselves or others for entertainment. This leads to frustration and hinders imagination and motivation.

Screens reduce empathy

Research has shown that screen time inhibits young children's ability to read faces and learn social skills, two key factors needed to develop empathy. Face-to-face interactions are the only way young children learn to understand non-verbal cues and interpret them.

Screens impacts health

Excessive screen time affects child's eye health and vision and put children at higher risk for developing myopia or nearsightedness, which can lead to serious eye problems in the future.

Excessive screen time in young children is associated with obesity, aggressive behavior, and may negatively impact attention span, language development, and cognitive development. Thus, fostering appropriate screen time habits in children may have important implications for health and wellness throughout life.

Being restricted indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic is therefore perhaps even harder for children than adults. When schools closed, using digital devices for regular education became a new experience for many children and their families. However, it has resulted in children and adolescents spending a significant amount of time on devices.

The UNICEF has identified few tips to cut down on screen timing as follows

(1) Focus on the content more than duration

Parents should notice what children are doing on devices, the content they encounter, and their online support networks, rather than limiting their access rigidly. Emphasize using digital tools for building connection and creativity.

(2) Schedule dedicated playtime with children

Children crave attention, and playtime promotes their cognitive, language and social skills. It is also beneficial for the well-being of the parents.

(3) Have at least one device-free family meal per day

Such conversations can help develop your child's social-emotional health and alleviate stress for the whole family.

(4) No screen time before bed

Setting screens aside for two hours before bedtime makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up on time.

(5) Intermittent social media fasting

Avoid social media during work or study hours. With increased focus, one can finish tasks on time and do other things.

(6) Encourage phone calls with friends

During these stressful times, children need to play and communicate with friends. Video games and social media can offer connectedness in a time where social interaction is reduced, but phone calls offer a break from staring at the screen.

(7) Pursue hobbies and build skills

There are lots of exciting activities online that can keep children active offline. Both parents and children need to find ways to remain active when work, learning, socializing, and play are confined to the screen.

(8) Make devices harder to grab

Designate a place for electronic devices at some distance, so it gets hard to reach them immediately when getting bored. Instead, keep non-screen items like newspapers, puzzles, comic books, board games, stress balls etc. very accessible.

(9) It's good to get bored sometimes

When children are required to find their own solutions to boredom, it becomes a chance for them to develop their imagination. Children do not require constant entertainment; in fact, it can be detrimental to their development.

(10) Act as a role model for the children to follow

Parents should set rules at home for everyone, not just for children, regarding excessive use of electronics.

Tips to protect child's eye health:

(1) Regular eye checks to detect problem early. Children should get vision tests atleast every two years to make sure eyes are developing properly.

(2) Children must stop blue light screen use at least one hour before bedtime.

(3) The most common factors that impact child's vision or eye health are reading in poor light, how close children sit to the TV/Screen, diet and blue light from screens.

References

1. https://www.who.int/news/item/24-04-2019-to-grow-up-healthy-children-need-to-sit-less-and-play-more

2. https://www.unicef.org/parenting/child-development/babies-screen-time

3. https://www.unicef.org/india/parentingtips/ten-tips-cutting-down-screen-time-during-covid-19

4. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/early-brain-development.html

5. https://www.firstthingsfirst.org/early-childhood-matters/brain-development/

L. Indumathi

L. Indumathi

Nurse Educator


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