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Can too much screen time hinder your child's development?

The place of media devices in learning and technological advancement cannot be minimized. However, when children are younger, they need to interact more with the real world. Parents must lead by example in spending time with their kids off-screen to read books, play and even go outside to see nature.

They all add up. The one hour of cartoon time when eating breakfast, the few sessions when you are making dinner, and those 20 minutes you give them your phone so you can finish a task. Today, children are spending more than the recommended amount of time in front of screens. According to a 2010 study, kids between 8 and 18 years spend an average of 7 hours a day on media entertainment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends preschool kids to have at most 1 hour of screen time a day. This is because too much screen time can cause developmental delays in children at that crucial age. The most recent study to look at this theory tested 2441 children from age 2 to 5. Parents were given questionnaires to fill in the amount of time their kids spend in front of the screen and then answer other questions on developmental milestones of the said children.

A lead researcher on the study said that children who were spending two or more hours a day in front of screens were not meeting benchmarks on critical skills. They tested communication, social skills, problem-solving, motor skills, among others. The unfortunate thing is that the impact of too much screen time was long-lasting, so the developmental delay continues even in teenage hood.

Too much screen time affect a child’s developmental milestones in many ways among them being:

  1. Missed opportunity for learning
    Those first years of life are critical for child development because it’s when their brains are learning everything. The way humans are created, they learn from interacting with their environment and actively doing. When a child is just passively watching stuff on tablets or TV, they are not actively interacting with their surroundings. They miss learning opportunities to practice skills.

  2. Disrupted sleep
    Recent studies show a direct correlation between screen time before bed and the quality of sleep. Children under five years should sleep at least 11 hours per day. Unfortunately, kids who wake up early to watch cartoons or sleep late doing something on the tablet don’t get enough sleep. As a result, their prefrontal cortex does not develop as fast as it should.

  3. Devices are shortcut tools
    The human brain grows because you exercise it through processing and creating. Unfortunately, electric devices are also designed to process everything and give you a ready meal. When a child is just ingesting already processed content, their brains never get a chance to work, so it doesn’t grow. Following media content also encourages laziness because it requires no mental effort.

  4. Lack of relational skills
    How do human beings learn to relate? By interacting with other people to learn nonverbal cues, empathy and listening. Computer devices and televisions don’t teach children how to connect with other people. Screen time is entirely one-sided, so the child just consumes content without giving anything back.

The place of media devices in learning and technological advancement cannot be minimized. However, when children are younger, they need to interact more with the real world. Parents must lead by example in spending time with their kids off-screen to read books, play and even go outside to see nature.

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