This younger generation is extremely smart, fast forward and tech savvy. We see parents boasting about their 3-year-old kid selecting his favorite cartoon on youtube on their Pc’s /decoding their screen locks or simply how techie their kiddo is. Definitely digital gadgets like t.v, laptops and smartphones have made our lives entertaining and easier, from connecting people from any corner of the world to shopping online. Many parents also have been using them as a tool to keep their child engaged or pacify their cranky child by playing them their favorite song/ video. But beware, these super screens can have a serious negative impact on your child’s brain and overall development
Let’s understand how?
T.V, tablets, computer or Smartphones all of these tend to keep your kids engaged for a long time thereby reducing the quality time they spend with you. This can ultimately impact your bond with your child. May sound a little weird but think about it. Whether you are a working parent or a freelancer or a homemaker, whatever quality time you spend with your child if a majority of it is occupied by screens, how are you even going to share any meaningful conversation?
For kids between the age group of 1 -5 years, they tend to learn and bond with their parents through eye contact, touch and speech the most. If these kids are engaged in screens for long, the interaction between the child and parent is interrupted which might directly affect parental bonding and attention.
Overexposure of screens to children has a similar response in a child such as when he/she is drugged.
Yes, you heard it right! screens can cause addiction in kids. Just like a drug addict throws tantrums, feel helpless and lost without it. Such behavior of kids, however, may go unnoticed as we ultimately tend to give in to their demands since we are not stoned heartened parents or at times simply cause we need some mental peace too. Kids get addicted to screens as it gives them more and more variety of content, which never gets exhausted and so the brain demands more and more as it receives a sense of reward each time kids are playing or watching their favorite clip.
A sound sleep is another important factor in the development of children. If your child is using his/her/your cell phone until late night, it may impact his/her sleep cycle. The blue light that is emitted from screens gives our brain an illusion of daytime, thereby causing confusion and as a result, causes sleep disturbances. Lack of sound sleep can lead to focus and health issues in children in the long run.
You may be aware of poor vision and headache caused in children due to excessive screen exposure but have you heard of complaints like neck pain and back pain in kids? Yes, it’s pretty common these days. When your child sits with a smartphone, tablet next time check their posture. They tend to slouch or bend often and this altered alignment of their spine can affect their blood circulation and brain development. Such postural problems can give rise to multiple health issues.
How much physically active are we, when we sit down with our smartphones/laptops or in front of the T.V? Not much right? Our generation has mostly spent time on the ground, running around and playing sports that let us sweat. As a result, most of us have managed to be a skinnier or healthier child, unlike the present generation. Now, do you get why your little one is just getting chubbier? Or if your little one is not just eating enough to be his ideal weight, screens can be held responsible for that too. Physical activity increases appetite. Eating a meal after a sport will help your skinny child to gain the desired weight. Apart from weight management, physical activity has lots of benefits for kids from stronger bones and muscles to healthier heart and lungs.
Kids and teens brains are in a constant learning phase. However, physical exploration of the surroundings and interaction is found missing in today’s generation. If the child is hooked onto the screen for hours together, their communication skills, cognitive thinking, and imagination all of it is affected,. A child also learns a lot through communication between individuals, the facial expressions, body language etc. If his/her brain is unable to perform these tasks, it might greatly impact the child’s personality and his/her communication skills.
No wonder more and more short-tempered, impatient or low self-esteem behavior is being observed amongst today’s generations. A lot also has to do with the content in the screens that they have been going through. If your child has been spending too much time on social sites, the probability of him/her to go into depression increases. Social media may not always show you the real face of the world. People try to post only the best of their time, which is many times envied by others making them compare their current state in life and make them upset. This can gradually lead to depression in kids.
If your child is seen playing games on screens often. It may help his brain to become more active but at the same time, it might take away important learnings like patience, teamwork, struggle etc.
Take video games for an example! While playing some video game or some random game on the internet, if the child wins he would get points immediately and if he loses he gets another chance immediately and he/she keeps playing till they win. So you may think, what’s the harm, its good to try after a failure, the problem here is that such kids have a trouble when they face real situations in life. It doesn’t teach them that “you may not always win and its ok to fail at times. You may not get a second chance soon, you will have to put in hard work to get back there again. You need to be patient, it’s not always just about you, team matters.” The child may miss out on important moral values of life. If your child watches violent movies or plays destructive games often, it can affect his temper in a negative way.
Communication is the essence of any relationship, whether between a child and a parent, between colleagues, friends or neighbor, society. And communication here refers to verbal, body language and physical contact unlike chats, messages, calls etc. Your kids will be able to socialize better when they are aware of their surroundings and are more attentive towards others.
Kids addicted to screens have found to be more introverts, shy, and underconfident in communicating due to lack of involvement in the early phases of life.
So we’ve spoken about all the negative impact that technology has on our kids. Do we ban these products for them? Let’s be little more practical, it’s a competitive world, your child might not need to be genius in handling these digital gadgets but he/she would need some exposure to them to stay updated. Plus one of the most important worry that must have been lingering your mind, while reading the post so far” Where do I hide my T.V, Laptop, Tablet, smartphone now?” You don’t really need to.
Let’s see how we can minimize these potential dangers on our kids
1) Avoid using screens for kids below two years of age as much as possible. This is a very delicate phase where the brain captures and learns majorly. Let the learning be as natural as it can.
2) Limit the time and frequency of screens of your kids and help them in engaging in alternate and more creative, meaningful plays like drawing, singing, dancing, swimming etc. This will help their brain development in a healthier manner.
3) We as parents are role models for our children. We cant keep chatting, messaging or stayed glued to screens most of the times and expect our kids to not follow. It is very important for us to practice what we preach. Let’s admit it, most of us need a digital detox more than our kids.
4) Make some time for your kids in your busy schedule, whether you are a working parent or a homemaker, kids need your time and attention. Connect with them, understand their needs, avoid overpampering but be there for them and let them not search for your substitute in a screen. This will not only help them detach from addiction but also it will improve their bond with you.
5) Try keeping one room preferably your bedroom screen free. This includes keeping your smartphones in a different room than your bedroom, helping you get a sound and undisturbed sleep.It will also make your practice of screen-free times easier.
6) Use screens for your child’s growth in a positive way. Install good quality learning, mathematical, vocabulary, science concepts based apps. And use them smartly and keep a time limit.
In the interest “Of the children, to the parents by a Parent”.
Alpana Tarkar, is a Clinical Nutritionist with a Post Graduation in Nutrition & Dietetics having 9 years of experience in the field. She is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a mother as well. She has helped many people improve their medical profile & believes in achieving a healthy body & mind through minor changes in the daily routine. Her mantra for fitness is “Make healthy eating a treat to your taste buds and exercise time your fun time, results will follow effortlessly”.