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Effects of excessive screen-time on children

With the increasing use and dependence on technology, we are witnessing a generation of children that has started suffering from digital dependency which leaves us clueless on how to guide our children in striking a balance in their virtual life and real life. Our children are using screens for education as well as entertainment purposes. Screen devices include mobile, iPad, tablets, videogames, television and laptop. Screen-time means the amount of time for which we use screens.

As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, more screen-time is defined as - “the use of screen devices two-plus hours a day for children over the age of two.”

There is no doubt that technology has brought a lot of benefits and convenience. But, if we completely ignore the other side of the coin, it can be harmful. Let us look at the other side of the coin and see how excessive screen-time can affect our children:

  • Lack of physical activity while using screens, binge eating, eating junk food and overeating due to decreased sense of satiety while using screens - all these things lead to increased incidence of childhood obesity in children.

  • Excessive use of screens affects the eyesight in children as the distance between the eyes and the screens like smartphones/tablets/laptop is lesser. Many children complain of irritation in the eyes, burning or itching in the eyes and redness of the eyes.

  • If the children watch anything on the screens with high volume for a long time, their hearing can be affected. Using in-ear earphones can increase the wax and chances of infection too. A sudden increase in volume can cause acute hearing loss.

  • As these screens emit blue light, overuse of screens in the evening and late evening can affect the sleep cycle. Blue light which is part of the spectrum of the light in the sunlight plays an important role in maintaining our circadian rhythm/biological clock. When blue light falls on our retina, the eyes send a signal to the brain through the optic nerve and supra-optic chiasma. Then our brain sends a signal to the Pineal gland which decreases the secretion of Melatonin which in turn makes us awake and alert. Similarly, signals are sent to various other parts of the body to set our biological clock. Children may find difficulty in falling asleep and their sleeping time may get delayed if they are using screens late in the evening and night.

  • Increased screen usage can cause speech and language delay if children below two years are introduced to the screens too early. Lack of two-way communication with people around can cause speech and language delay as the development requires constant stimulation of the brain centre related to speech and language via communication. If the child is constantly using screens, there is no interaction from his/her side; it’s a one-way street.

  • It can also cause Text-neck syndrome - pain in the neck, upper limb and hands with tingling/numbness if children use the screen in the incorrect position.

  • Watching hyper-stimulating content on the screens can decrease the attention span in children. Children can become impatient, get bored fast and would want constant stimulation and excitement. They will start enjoying virtual experiences more than real-life experiences. Many studies suggest that incidences. Studies also show that children with more screen time are at risk of developing learning disabilities and ADHD.

  • It also affects their creative skills and critical thinking abilities. They do not know how to face challenges in the real world. The virtual world becomes the world for them.

  • Playing violent games and watching such videos make children hyperactive, aggressive, fearful and insensitive. It affects their psyche and they start getting pleasure in violence. Some children also develop behavioural issues at home and school. As I mentioned earlier, children can face emotional blunting and lack appropriate emotional reactions. Some children are also diagnosed to have childhood depression.

“Knowledge without application is useless!”

Similarly, even after knowing the effects, if we do not bring balance in the lives of our children, it’s useless.

Have a happy and healthy childhood for your child!

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