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Is Screen Time Bad for Children?

Columnist Nozaina: Screen time refers to the time spent engaging or watching digital media on a screen, including TVs, games, phones, computers, and tablets. Scrolling through social networks on a phone and playing games on a tablet is also screen time. You head to a movie theater to watch a movie that’s screen time too.

Columnist Nozaina: Screen time refers to the time spent engaging or watching digital media on a screen, including TVs, games, phones, computers, and tablets. Scrolling through social networks on a phone and playing games on a tablet is also screen time. You head to a movie theater to watch a movie that’s screen time too. New technologies (interactive screen media and mobile) are deep-rooted in a child’s life. Children are digital natives born into an ever-changing digital system. Nowadays, children engage with media daily at the age of four months. Electronic devices have transformed communication, learning, and data distribution, but current research reveals that screen media use may have adverse effects. Excessive screen time raises the probability of obesity, sleep disturbance, poor academic performance, behavioral problems, etc. Screen media use has negative and positive effects on cognitive health. Media devices have the potential to improve learning and education. According to research, learning-to-read applications and electronic books may improve early creative thinking capacities and reading skills. Digital media is a fun way to engage and learn new concepts.

However, few studies reveal the harmful effects of excessive use of screen time on cognitive areas, such as managerial work, academic outcomes, and sensorimotor growth. It harms executive functioning in teenagers, particularly in working memory and the ability to switch between tasks. A study found a long-lasting link between cognitive capacity and early screen exposure. One-hour increase in TV exposure at the age of two years corresponds to a 7 percent unit fall in participation in class and a 6 percent unit reduction in math proficiency in grade fourth.

A Spanish study discovered that increased screen time decreases academic performance. There is an emergent concern that screen time reduces the quality and quantity of interaction among parents and their children. Increased screen time at an early age has adverse effects on language development. Beginning screen time at a later age has potential benefits. The features of videos, their content, and co-viewing also help in influencing language development. However, some studies revealed the negative effects on social, speech, motor skills, cognitive, and language development. When kids are present, adults must be aware of the impact of background TV. Extreme TV viewing can also affect reading abilities and language development at a young age. In current years, the perception of screen time has become more multifaceted, with a wide range of electronic devices existing worldwide.

The advancement of technology increased the usage of screen-based technology among young people. It also affects their overall well-being, mental health, and engagement with nature. There is a negative link between screen time and the development of cognitive and physical abilities. Additionally, screen time is linked to depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and obesity. One study shows that increased exposure to TV between the ages of 6 and 18 months is associated with externalizing behaviors, emotional reactivity, and aggression. Some studies suggested that increased screen time at the age of 4 is linked with lower levels of emotional understanding at age 6. Television in a 6-year-old child’s room predicts lower levels of emotional understanding at the age of eight years. Video gaming and computer use are connected with more severe depressive symptoms as compared to the other types of screen. Video gaming is associated with the severity of anxiety.

Excessive use induces poor sleep. Dependency on mobile phones and the use of digital devices at nighttime is associated with depressive symptoms. Too much screen time, sleep issues, and exposure to content that is violet and fast-paced activate dopamine and reward pathways in the brain, all of which are linked with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) related behavior. Persistent and early exposure to violent content increases the chance of antisocial behavior engagement.

Management Strategies 

Sometimes, parents use screen time as a reward. They also believe digital technology harms their child’s physical activity, sleep, social skills, and behavior. Parents can implement behavioral control in the home through rule-setting and observation. Screens are almost everywhere, that’s why it could be challenging to monitor a child’s screen time. Unstructured playtime is more appreciated than electronic media. Children younger than two years are likely to learn when they play and interact with adults, other children, siblings, and parents. By age two, they may benefit from some other types of screen time such as programming with music, stories, and movements. Passive screen time should not replace playing, reading, or problem-solving. The media use except video chatting by children younger than 18 months is discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you introduce digital media to 18 to 24 months, make sure it’s high quality and avoid the use of solo media. For ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work as your child grows. Being a parent you need to choose how much media you let your child use daily and what’s suitable. Consider applying the same guidelines to your child’s virtual and real environment. In both play with your child, be involved, teach kindness, and know about your child’s friends. The quality of the media is more significant than the type of technology or the amount of time spent.

To ensure the quality screen time:

  • Use parental controls to filter or block internet content.
  • Preview games, apps, and programs before allowing your child to view them. Watch, use, or play them with your child.
  • Seek interactive options that are engaging rather than those that require swiping and pushing.
  • Make sure your child is close to you during screen time, so you can supervise their activities
  • Repeatedly ask your child about the games and programs she or he played during the day.
  • When you are watching programs with your child, discuss what you are watching and educate them about commercials and advertising.
  • Avoid violent content, fast-paced programming, that is hard to understand, and apps with a lot of distracting content. Eliminate advertisements on apps, since your child has trouble telling the difference between factual and ad information.



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