How Does Screen Time Affect Children?

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How screen time affects children is a common question asked by many parents. Google is flooded with these kinds of queries by people, where most likely searches are from parents. Limited screen time is not as bad a thing as it sounds. However, increased or unnecessary screen time exposure can undoubtedly negatively impact your child’s brain. This is why control over screen time is an essential point to attend, especially in children. Let’s explore the other points to answer how screen time affects children.

Two Lovebirds: Children and Screen Time

Presently, most people, not just young people, are often screen addicts, whether on their mobile phones, palmtops, or laptops. People interact more with their phones than with each other, including without social gatherings. Most people rely on screens for their jobs and businesses, for communication, socializing, and even for entertainment.

It is alarming that a high rate of adults remain glued to their screens even while walking or driving. This situation is worse for children, who spend hours of the day playing video games, watching TV shows, or chatting.

Some parents have cases of their children playing games while eating breakfast or texting friends during dinner time. They also stay in their rooms all day watching entertainment TV programs like Disney World or Nickelodeon.

Children are affected more by this growing trend as they are more susceptible to screen time addiction during their early life stages. A 2018 Pew research study found that 58% of children between the ages of 13-17 were concerned about how much time they spent online glued to their smartphones.

Screen-based technology has undoubtedly become a fixture in the modern digital world. Today’s children grow up with unlimited access to electronic gadgets, and they can’t imagine a world without smartphones and the internet.

Research Findings: What We Know So Far

So, how does screen time affect children? Several studies indicate that excessive screen time significantly impacts children’s brains and development.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2019, the adverse health effects of excessive screen time can be massive, and screen time for children needs to be reduced to the barest minimum to avert those health risks. The WHO also recognizes what is called gaming disorder, which is a disease in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD11).

Data from the National Institute of Health (NIH) report in 2018 indicates that children who spend over two hours daily on screen-time activities score lower on language and thinking assessment results. Children who spend over 7 hours experience thinning of the cortex, which is the brain part used for reasoning and critical thinking.

Some researchers have investigated the correlation between screen time and child development among over 2000 children between the ages of 2 and 5. Their research found that high levels of screen time delay child development.

Several studies indicate that early exposure to excessive screen time in children impacts preschoolers’ development – but not in the right way. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), preschool-age kids shouldn’t have more than one hour of screen time daily.

Ultimately, these research findings indicate that screen time restricts child development by narrowing children’s focus and interests and limiting learning and exploration.

Child development and screen-time: the good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good: Development happens rapidly for children under 3, and they learn by exploring their immediate environment. A developing mind is in the critical phase in the early years, especially under 3. For instance, language development rapidly expands in children between 1 and 3 years. They learn a language faster while playfully engaging and interacting with adults.

Children learn necessary skills and habits by imitating people and exploring their environment. But that is only one aspect of the whole equation. Children also learn subjects more efficiently and faster with graphical representations or animations.

The Bad: Excessive screen time may inhibit children’s ability to observe and learn. Children miss out on learning and practising motor, interpersonal, and communication skills by spending more time with their screens.

These instances indicate that excessive screen time is detrimental to overall child development. Unnecessary screen time inhibits other vital aspects of a child’s life, such as Sleep and concentration. So this means leads to other health complications like addiction, insomnia, and depression. It can be an awful situation for healthy cognitive, social, and emotional development in children.

Some studies reveal that excessive screen time correlates with some physical and mental health issues, like low diet, obesity, and depression.

The Ugly: This ugly part is why one needs to be careful and strategic while handling children’s screen time. Parents are often on the thin line between helping their kids become tech-literate and preventing screen-time addiction in a world literarily run by gadgets.

So, the ugly thing about screen time is that it is a good or bad thing for children, depending on the context and the degree of use.

The Role of Parents in Managing Their Children’s Screen Time

Some experts say that parents are teachers to their children than electronic devices. Parents must create enough face-to-face time with their children and spend time with them.

Children under 5 must explore their environment by moving around, building curiosity, and spending time with friends and family. So, parents need to balance their children’s screen time with other family or group activities. You may also want to restrict gadgets during bedtime, mealtime, and family discussions.

Parents could help their children manage screen time by setting time limits and daily expectations during the early stages.  It is harder to stop excessive screen-time habits in children when they’ve already started. So, this approach will quickly help develop good screen-time habits in children early on.

The AAP recommends limiting screen time for preschool children between ages 2 and 5 to one hour a day. Preferably, such sessions should be restricted to high-quality programs like Sesame Street and National Geographic Kids. You should also ensure that your children are watching only age-appropriate content.

You can also have screen-time sessions together with your children. Ask questions and explain things they don’t understand to ensure a limited screen time session.

Finally, you’ve heard the adage that charity begins at home. You may want to ensure that you limit your screen time when you are around your kids. You are the first point of personal contact, and they tend to primarily imitate and learn from you.

Healthy development is the number one priority for your kids.

In conclusion, enough evidence supports the correlation between child development and screen time. So, ensure you manage your children’s time in front of their screens. This article is a summary of how screen time affects children. 

Parents, how are you handling the screen time for your kids?

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