As parents, it is only natural in wanting your children to experience those memorable and amazing things you have gone through growing up. For example, playing outside or playing activities. And there is nothing wrong with it, on contrary, it would be beneficial to kids. But sadly, the time being spent by kids on these activities is becoming lesser and lesser. The declining time that is being spent by children on physical play could be associated with the ongoing demand and popularity of technological devices that enable new types of games such as video games, computer games, and others that they could play at home or digitally.
In the age of modernity, it is not surprising that kids are becoming more immersed in the different technological devices and their perks. These devices are truly a pleasure to have. They provide much-needed convenience at the comfort of their homes, much to the delight of kids.
But, while technology brings convenience, entertainment, and the likes, it also brought alongside with it a lot of negative things. They negatively impact children’s attitudes, behaviour, and development. Children nowadays are showered by technologies. Different gadgets are now within the reach of children getting them as a reward, parents letting them use their gadgets to behave, or just to keep them busy.
The ideal daily screen time should be limited to one to two hours. Children nowadays are immersed in the screen of their gadgets for more than what is advisable. These exceeding lengths of immersion to the screen of gadgets put children at risk of developing some negative consequences.
Here are the 8 negative effects of too much screen time on kids:
1. Behavioural Problems
Children who are exposed to long hours on screen (more than two hours) either through gadgets, computers, or television are more likely to develop emotional, social, and attention problems. Too much immersion in these things does not let kids interact more with those around them. It strips them of the time they could use to connect with others, or the time they could use to have more meaningful communication and relationship with the people in their immediate surroundings.
2. Sleep Problems
Although people watch televisions or use gadgets before sleeping, immersion to screen before going to bed posed a negative effect on it such as sleep deprivation. This is true not only to adults but also to children. The amount of screen time someone spends has a direct consequence to sleep. The blue light emitted by digital screens harms the production of a certain hormone called melatonin which is associated with the sleep-wake cycle of humans. Thus, using digital devices before sleep has a contradictory effect to what people believed.
3. Cognitive Problems
Too much screen time posed a risk to children’s cognitive abilities. This overexposure can shrink the brain structure responsible for cognitive processes. In a study by the National Institute of Health Children, it was shown that children who spent more than two hours immersing themselves in front of a screen scored lower in areas of reasoning and language. And though the correlation is not yet definite, there is observed thinning of the brain cortex in children who spend more than seven hours a day in front of gadgets.
4. Educational Problems
Children who are exposed to devices for an extended period are at risk of developing educational problems since they prefer playing rather than studying. In a study entitled “Digital media Exposure in school-Aged Children Decreases the Frequency of Homework” by researchers from Brown University, it was revealed that children who used digital devices for non-academic purposes for two to four hours daily are 23% less likely to finish their assignments.
5. Weakened Emotional Judgement and Violence
Too much screen time could hinder children’s ability to process their emotions and this hasnegative consequences for them and those around them. Extended screen time means a higher chance of exposure to violent content such as TV shows, movies, video games, videos, images, and music that might cause children to become desensitized to it, a specifically disturbing effect of a weakened emotional judgment. This overexposure and desensitization might make children imitate what they see or hear on these tv shows, movies, video games, or music and later on it might result in aggression or children using the same violence they witnessed or watched to solve even their problems.
Obesity is a major health risk for kids who are spending too much time in front of screens. Watching shows on television or playing video and computer games are not activities that could be considered good for the body. These activities are commonly done while seating and therefore are not good for burning calories, such a sedentary lifestyle could result in gaining unmanageable and unhealthy weight.
7. Neck and back pain
While watching shows on the television or playing video games, it could not be avoided that sometimes children are doing these activities with a bad posture. This bad posture could be because of a seat that does not provide back support or devices that are not positioned at eye level. Whatever the cause is, bad posture for an extended period might result in neck and back pain. Common poor posture that is associated with these activities of watching and playing is the head-and-shoulders-forward posture which contributes a lot to neck pain.
An extended period of immersion to screens is not beneficial to eyes and vision. Children who are immersed to screen for a long period are not exempted from this effect, and its repercussions for them are more serious as they could experience these negative effects at a young age which could interfere with their daily lives. Too much screen time does not only strain the eyes and make them dry, but it also negatively affects the thin layer of tissue in the back of the eye called the retina, and could also lead to blurred vision.
Ways to Balance Too Much Screen Time
Parents want the best for their children and part of this goal is making them healthy physically, emotionally, and psychologically. The negative effects of exposure to screens are not automatic consequences when a child starts to use technological devices and been exposed. They only occur if the children become immersed for too long. But the good news is that these negative effects can be avoided by guiding the children to use technological tools or devices responsibly and in moderation. Setting limits on the use of television or on playing video games may appear difficult but, some practices could make this easier.
Here are some of the practices parents and guardians can do to lessen the screen time of children:
1. Be a role model on using gadgets and other devices
Children learn a lot from their environment just by observing it. They typically imitate those they see around them as the people who surround them in their eyes are role models. This being said, parents, guardians, or more knowledgeable others in the family should be responsible role models in different aspects of life including the healthy use of gadgets and other devices. So, before you binge-watch your favorite drama, or scroll your phone and look at your social media accounts, in your spare minutes or hours, be reminded that there are children who may imitate and model your screen-related behavior.
2. Keep the bedroom free from electronic devices
When children at their bedroom there are more tendency for them to use electronic devices since no one would be watching them. To make up for this, instead of the bedroom, it is advisable to place computers and television in more central locations inside homes so that there would be fewer temptations when the children are about to sleep. Doing so would enable parents and guardians to better monitor the time spent by children in front of screens.
3. Educating yourself about the use of electronic devices
Nowadays, more children are more knowledgeable than parents or guardians when it comes to technology like electronic devices such as gadgets. If parents know how these devices work then they can better regulate the time spent by children and can better explain why they do not allow them to watch some content.
4. Create a screen time limit and schedule
Another step to regulate the screen time of children is for parents and guardians to limit it through scheduling. Do this by talking with them so that they could understand your goal and that you are not doing this just on a whim. A limit and a schedule are good ways to regulate screen time as it establishes a “habit” through the rules associated with it. Limiting their use and scheduling when to use gadgets and other devices establishes electronic use as a privileged ,and same with other privileges it should be used responsibly.
5. Encourage children to do some physical activities
When parents include a time limit and schedule in regulating the children’s time in front of electronic devices, they should also encourage them to do physical activities more. These physical activities serve as an alternative so that the children while off the screen would not be bored. After all, physical activities are also fun and provide a lot of benefits to kids.
6. Make rules
Making rules about screen time could be compounded by time limits and scheduling to ensure that children will spend less time in front of screens. Examples of these rules are prohibiting phone use while eating, not allowing any device use until the assignments and chores are done, turning phones and other devices off at a designated time, etc.
7. Be strong and consistent
Along the way, there are bound to have some conflicts in the implementation of the rules with regards to screen time. As parents or guardians, you need to stand your ground. Be calm and reiterate and explain to your child the goal and reason for such rules and regulations.
Knowing the harmful effects of too much screen time is a piece of essential knowledge in keeping children healthy in an age of modernity. While letting children take part in discovering vital skills related to technology, it would not hurt to teach them ways of how to use it more responsibly with regards to time. By teaching children to be more responsible with the time they spend on electronic devices, parents and guardians are also teaching them the value of real-life skills, physical activities, and human relationships.
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