Today’s society is marked by its reliance on the digital space and the technologies that are utilized in order to access it. This phenomenon affects everyone – individuals and educational institutions alike have partaken in the advantages of going online.
Technology’s reach also greatly extends to the students themselves as well. May it be in the form of their personal computers, their laptops, and their smartphones; these devices are designed to provide for some of their everyday needs such as entertainment, learning, and communication. This in turn makes it more likely that even the youngest children may already possess such devices.
With that in mind, it is important to remember that constant exposure to these devices’ screens may have certain consequences on their well-being. In particular, long screen times may lead them to develop unfortunate side effects such as obesity, irregularities in sleep patterns, poor diet and nutrition, and deficient communication skills.
Obesity: The lack of physical activity does nothing well for the body of the child or teen. Long periods of being sedentary make the body spend less energy, which in turn slows one’s metabolism and makes them more prone to complications such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Irregular sleep patterns: Kids and teens alike who have unmonitored and unregulated access to their devices may find it hard to sleep at night due to the entertainment value it brings. It comes as no surprise that some would rather play than sleep, after all. This can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, which itself can bring a whole slew of other unfortunate effects like decreased memory, reduced motor skills, and fatigue.
Poor diet and nutrition: Constant exposure to both television and online ads may affect both kids and teens in that they will be made to unconsciously crave unhealthy foods more. In addition, these types of snacks are easier to consume while using smartphones or laptops so they are sure to be picked over more often than, say, slow-cooked homemade meals on a plate.
Deficient communication skills: Due to the lack of practice when it comes to communication, kids and teens who prefer to spend their time stuck on a screen will find themselves experiencing difficulty in bridging relationships with others. Lack of real life participation are sure to take its toll over time, much like any other skill that is not exercised.
The best solution to avoid screen exposure’s side effects is to abstain from it as much as possible. Concerned parents may wonder how this can be done:
Remove easy access. Keeping the offending devices away will decrease their time on it. As the old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.”
Impose time limits. Create time limits wherein your preschooler, tween or teen will be allowed to use their devices extensively. Keep in mind that according to the AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics), entertainment screen time should be limited to 2-3 hours. This is standard across all age groups, especially those who are 2-18 years old. Those under 2 should not be exposed at all.
Walk your talk. Parents who want to impose restrictions on their children must be able to follow it themselves. Set an example and limit device use as well. This is supported by a study from The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, which found that children whose parents tended to watch more than 2 hours a day of television were 3.2 times more likely to do the same.
Try out other activities.. There are lots of other things to do. Try initiating other activities like board games, outdoor trips, or even little family cookouts for better bonding without having to use screens.
While our reliance on technology has brought us great advantages, overexposure to it will do more harm than good. Thus, keeping away from overexposure is more important than ever. While managing your children’s screen time may in itself be a challenge, remember that it will all be worth it.