Blog Image

Let’s Talk About Screen Time and Gadget Addiction

April 06, 2021 Posted by: Kidzapp Team Health & Nutrition

The internet has become a basic utility like electricity and clean water. Globally, 4.57 billion people use the internet (59%) of which 4.17 billion are mobile internet users. Of these, 3.96 billion are on social media. It’s a great source of information and entertainment but unfortunately, the internet has also become a source of many problems. One great area of concern is the effect of screen time and early use of digital gadgets among our young children.

The 2013 Zero to Eight study commissioned by Common Sense Media showed that 38 percent of infants younger than the age of two use mobile devices. A 2015 Pew Research Study reports that 73 percent of 13-17 year-olds have smartphones and 24 percent admit using their phones almost constantly. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children spend more than seven hours per day on an electronic device on average.

Progression to addiction

• When they’re young, you hand over your phone to them willingly, to keep them occupied or quiet. This is how it starts.

• Kids may want a mobile phone or a video game because their best friend has one. This is when it aggravates.

• Eventually, physical play time turns into digital game time. This is when it becomes an addiction!

Burden of the problem

Emerging studies are showing screen time’s deleterious effect on the growing brain, socialization and general behaviour. The burden of the problem is too deep to cover everything in this short article but some of the negative effects are outlined below.

1. Hampers Cognitive Development

Research has shown that overexposure to gadgets can result in slow cognitive development, attention deficits, delayed speech and even impaired hearing. Problems with attention and focus may impact on a child’s performance in school, at home or when communicating with other people. Alarmingly, every 30-minute increase in handheld screen time translates to a 49% risk of expressive language delay. Brain scans also showed that kids with lots of screen time had a premature thinning of the cortex which processes different types of information from the senses.

2. Builds Obsession, Leading to Agitation

What starts as a means to pacify a toddler can soon turn into an obsession, increased agitation, temper tantrums, and difficulty in controlling emotions leading to hyperactivity, aggression, and anxiety.

3. Delays Physical Development

Lack of physical activity is bound to result in delayed physical development due to delay in manual sensory and physical stimulation.

4. Restrains Social Relationships

When kids and gadgets become inseparable, the attachment can stand in the way of bonding with family and friends of his/her age. This subsequently increases the amount of time a child spends alone leading to social isolation and trouble relating to other people.

5. Increases Risks of Obesity

Increased time spent in front of screens lead to increased snacking, and mindless eating habits thereby increasing the likelihood of childhood obesity. Overweight and obese children are more likely to remain obese into adulthood. This increases their risk to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, joint diseases, endocrine disorders, respiratory problems, several types of cancers, psychological stresses, and other obesity-related conditions. A study in 2012 in Abu Dhabi showed that 14.7% of school-aged children are overweight and 18.9% are obese.

6. Causes Physical Strains and Pains & Sleep Disruption

Constant engagement with electronic devices causes eye problems, back pain and other muscle-related issues in children. The blue light emitted by display screens prevents the release of melatonin, an important sleep inducing hormone, which leads to sleep impairment.

What can we do?

Parents need to model responsible media use and establish family media plans that support balance, boundaries, and communication. Media should be viewed as a tool rather than a babysitter, reward, or punishment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:

Avoid digital media use (except video-chatting) in children younger than 12 months

• For the 18-24 months age group, choose high quality programming and avoid solo media use

• For children 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, and co-view with your child.

• Turn off televisions and other devices when not in use

• Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child

• Monitor your children’s media content, what apps are used or downloaded

• Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent-child playtimes screen-free

• No screens 1 hour before bedtime

• Remove devices from bedrooms before bed

Nothing will ever replace human interaction and socialization. Play and interact with your child rather than using digital media. Talk and have an extensive discussion with your pediatrician about responsible screen time.

Authored by Dr. Romulo Dimarucut, Specialist Paediatrician at Filipino Family Clinic, Mediclinic Deira.

For appointments call 800 1999 or download the MyMediclinic24x7 app.

Leave a comment

Related Articles
Kids With Hives or Itchy Rash – When Should I Be Worried?
October 27, 2021 Posted by: Kidzapp Team

As a pediatrician with a special interest in Allergy, I know how often parents are worried about all... Read More

An Easy and Safe Way to Treat Cavities in Children
September 13, 2021 Posted by: Kidzapp Team

Ever heard of Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF)? Well, this colourless liquid containing fluoride and si... Read More

How To Care For Your Baby's Teeth
August 03, 2021 Posted by: Kidzapp Team

Keeping our littlest ones healthy and happy is always a top priority. And with that in mind, we have... Read More

Why Do I Feel Parent Guilt, And How Do I Stop?
July 28, 2021 Posted by: Kidzapp Team

I have never met a mom that told me she doesn’t feel guilt. And I’ve met many! Why do we feel so muc... Read More

Fever In Children: 5 Facts You Need To Know
July 18, 2021 Posted by: Kidzapp Team

Many parents fear their child getting a fever – something you might call ‘fever phobia’. Dr. Dave fr... Read More

HELP! My Child Won’t Eat Anything! What Can I Do?
March 15, 2021 Posted by: Kidzapp Team

Having children who are picky eaters can be a frustrating ordeal for parents. Luckily for us, Dr. Da... Read More

Nosebleed (Epistaxis) In Children
March 11, 2021 Posted by: Kidzapp Team

Despite the benefit and pleasure that children get from school, there are some health problems that ... Read More

Coughs and Colds in Children – When To Be Worried?
February 17, 2021 Posted by: Kidzapp Team

Winter is often a worrying time for parents as schools and nurseries become hubs for bugs. We reache... Read More

Are You Concerned That Your Child Is Too Short?
February 15, 2021 Posted by: Kidzapp Team

Having your child being the shortest kid in class can be cause for concern for some parents. We spok... Read More

Whatsapp Image