Screen time for children

  1. What is the possible impact of children spending excessive hours on screen, can you list few?

The American Association of Pediatrics identifies screen time as time spent using digital media for entertainment purposes. Other uses of media, such as online homework, doesn’t count as screen time. Owning a smartphone or tablet has now become a common practice even with young school going children. As much as it is a relief for children that summer vacations are just around the corner, this time could be rather worrisome for parents with them thinking of ways to keep their children engaged during the two months. Kids of every age spend hours before a TV, phone or tablet which is not always a bad thing. What decides the effect of screen time on children is the kind of program they watch and how much time they spend watching the same.

Children use electronic devices for different purposes, a few being; to play video games and computer games, texting, using social media, playing hand-held games, to watch cartoons or shows and even to complete homework.

Excessive use of electronic devices and screen time has an impact on various aspects of a child’s development, namely;

  • Disrupted sleep cycle resulting in lack of adequate sleep
  • Brain developments issues and behavioral problems
  • Obesity
  • Poor performance at school
  • Anti-social activities like crime, sex, violence etc. that are commonly depicted on TV/shows that may have a negative impact on children, particularly adolescents

  1. Are you already getting cases related to kids spending hours on screens and health-related issues?

Yes, almost all pediatricians receive such cases of children getting addicted to these gadgets. In fact, children as young as 6 months – 1 year of age, who are most often introduced to gadgets by parents tend to get addicted to them because it becomes a habit. Conditioning is an important aspect of childhood and this practice has to start from home at a very early age. Even toddlers need to be enforced limitations on using electronic devices because they begin to learn to maneuver smartphones, tablets and TV remotes, at a very young age.

  1. What are the possible measures advised to reduce the usage of screen time for children (Please specify age bracket)

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children below 18 months of age should not be exposed to any kind of screen time. It is a common practice these days for parents to turn the TV on or play a rhyme or video on YouTube so that they eat without fuss or stop crying. This needs to stop completely. Parents with children between 18-24months of age should watch TV with them in order to know and understand what they are allowing their child to watch.

Children who are 2 to 5 years, can spend a maximum of 1 hour per day watching high-quality programs with good educational content. For children who are aged 6 and older, parents must place consistent limits on the time spent using any kinds of entertainment media and must ensure that this doesn’t interfere with their daily functioning and health. For school going children and adolescents, parents must limit screen time to no more than 1-2 hours a day. Always make sure that you monitor the kind of shows your child watches.

Parents must make it a point to take time out and spend quality time watching TV with their children. Ensure that you do not allow any kind of screen time before children go to sleep. It is also recommended to avoid watching TV during dinner because children cannot analyze whether they are full or not. Designate areas where these devices will not be present. Remove TV sets from your child’s bedroom and do not allow any kind of electronic devices like mobile phones, tablets or laptops in their bedroom. Encourage involvement in physical activities like playing outside, swimming etc. or even reading, playing games like chess which will keep their minds off the devices and will allow for healthier lifestyles. Children follow what they see their elders doing, hence it is also essential for parents to lead by example.

Dr. Mohamed Haseen Basha

Specialist Paediatrician

Aster Clinic, Al Khail Mall

 

 

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