Too much screen time, now a growing paediatric issue

Aster News


Too much screen time, now a growing paediatric issue

Gadget use interferes with sleep cycle and can lead to insomnia and behavioural problems: emotional, social, attention problems and violent behaviour

With schools mostly about to bid goodbye to kids for the summer break, most parents in the UAE must be deliberating on how to reduce their kids’ screen time, as most of their time revolves around gadgets.

Even on normal days, most paediatrics complain of parents bringing children to them with symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbances, delayed language skills and obesity.

So how do you deal with the situation when electronic devices are a crucial part of your life?

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 in children is the kind of programme 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, points out Dr Mohamed Haseen Basha, Specialist paediatrics, Aster Clinic in Al Khail Mall.

“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, having to think of ways to keep their children en-gaged during the two months.”

Dr Basha shares that almost all paediatricians receive cases of children getting addicted to these gadgets. In fact, children as young as six months to one year of age, who are introduced to gadgets by parents and tend to get addicted to them. 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 learn to use smartphones, tablets and TV remotes at a very early stage.

“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 the children go to sleep. It is also recommended to avoid watching TV/mobiles during dinner, because children cannot gauge whether they are feeling 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 lap-tops 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 life-styles. Children follow what they see their elders doing, hence it is also essential for parents to lead by example,” said Dr Basha.

Measures to reduce screen time for children

. Screen time for children younger than 2 years is not recommended

. For children aged 2 to 5 years, limit the routine or regular screen time to less than 1 hour per day.

. Ensure that sedentary screen time is not a routine part of child care for children younger than 5 years

. Maintain daily ‘screen-free’ times, especially for family meals and book-sharing

. Avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime, given the potential for melatonin-suppressing effects

. Mitigate (reduce) the risks associated with screen time

. Be present and engaged when screens are used and, whenever possible, view along with children

. Be aware of content and prioritise educational, age-appropriate and interactive programming

. Use parenting strategies that teach self-regulation, calming and limit-setting.


News Source : Khaleej Times