Letting children play with phones, can lead to serious mental and health problems later in life.
Children need to sit less and play more Letting the little one play with your phone or watch too much video, can lead to serious mental and health problems later in life. Instead of screens, young children need eye to eye contact, interactions with others, and lots of play!
Why young children are so vulnerable to screens
Early childhood is a period of rapid brain development in which language, behavior and critical habits are formed for life. In a new set of guidelines, the World Health Organization, therefore, announced that infants under 1 year old should not be exposed to electronic screens unless they are used for video chat. And even later screens should be limited to a maximum of one hour per day until the age of five. Instead children need to spend time talking with their parents or playing in the real world.
Doctors support strict screen limits: The guideline from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than for video-chatting
- For children 18 to 24 months of age, choose high-quality programming, and watch it with the children to help them understand what they’re seeing
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should watch with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them
Negative effects of screen time: The time spent in front of a screen has been linked to a number of negative health outcomes. These include:
Weight: Children who spend a lot of time using screens may not be getting enough physical activity, leading to weight gain. Also because children on screens will often eat and not be conscious of the amount of food they are eating. They may also be influenced by junk food advertisements and be more likely to seek out unhealthy food.
Mental problems: Children who spend a lot of hours a day on screens are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety than those who limit their use of screens. Unlike sleep problems or weight gain, mental problems are very difficult to cure later in life.
Communication skills: Screen use can isolate children from what is going on around them and they may miss out on everyday interactions that build healthy relationships. As children look into screens instead of interacting, they don’t develop critical communication skills.
Sleep: The light emitted from screens has been shown to prevent sleep onset in children when used in the evening or just before sleep. This can, therefore, reduce the total amount of sleep that children get. Less sleep is linked to weight gain and to mood and behaviour problems.
Neck, back and posture problems: When kids stare into screens, they often put their body into unhealthy position that over time can lead to neck and back pain. If that happens for many hours every day, a child’s natural posture can be affected.
Exposure to harmful information: There is growing evidence that shows children who watch violent content, are more likely to view the world as a scary and mean place. It also suggests that children are more likely to show aggression as they see it as ‘normal’ behaviour.
Eye health: Children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop short sightedness. When children stare at the screen for a long time, they may blink less than normal which can dry the eyes. This can lead to eye strain and fatigue.
Dr. Piyawut Kreetapirom, MD. (1 July 2020)