Toddlers on tablets, children on smartphones and a generation raised by screens.
It is inevitable that smartphones and tablets are everywhere and adults need them to function in this technologically advanced world. But, why do we insist on shoving them in front of children to shut them up — especially during such critical developmental years?
When children are exposed to over an hour a day of screen time, their language, literacy and cognitive skills are at risk of being stunted.
Pediatrician and director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, Michael Rich, made an excellent point when he said, “boredom is the space in which creativity and imagination happen.”
Giving minds the time and space to wander allows us the opportunity to come up with our own great ideas and creative thoughts. However, with phones constantly offering new content, brains stop forming their own original ideas and we become sheep, mindlessly scrolling through the internet.
When children are constantly engaged online, they are unknowingly minimizing the time their minds can wander. They begin to lack the imagination a child should have. This is the least of problems when it comes to the negative effects of too much screen time.
When considering how much information humans learn from real-life experiences, one must question how children are impacted when these experiences are replaced by screens.
“Studies have shown excessive TV viewing is linked to the inability of children to pay attention and think clearly, while increasing poor eating habits and behavioral problems. Associations have also been shown between excessive screen time and language delay, poor sleep, impaired executive function and a decrease in parent-child engagement,” according to CNN Health.
Allowing children to develop a short attention span is basically setting them up for failure in the future. These cognitive problems can affect their school performance and work habits. Taking care of a little problem, like too much phone use, can potentially solve bigger problems down the line.
Screen time before bed is especially not good for children.
When children stay up on an iPad or phone instead of getting a full eight hours of sleep, they are interrupting time that should be spent in a REM sleep pattern. A lack of REM sleep can disrupt essential time needed to process and store information from that day into memory. This can be extremely important once those children start their education.
“A young person’s brain lacks a fully developed self-control system to help them with stopping this kind of obsessive behavior,” according to research by Harvard Medical School.
Once a person has a subconscious pattern like looking at their phone before bed, it can be extremely hard to stop. Phones can have the same addicting effect on human brains as cigarettes or alcohol.
Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, has found evidence that kids who spend too much time looking at a screen usually have parents who exhibit the same patterns.
If these patterns are to continue into their teenage years, they could be looking at prescription glasses. According to a study shared by Healthline, “researchers say the number of children 13 to 16 years old who need glasses has doubled the past 10 years.” Experts argue that screen time is the culprit behind the rise in eyesight problems in teens and young adults.
Smartphone and tablet users must realize that they have the power to deny or succumb to the rabbit hole of screen addiction, for themselves and their children as well.
The best way to combat this issue is to evolve with technology and learn to limit our and our children’s screen time. It is crucial for parents to spend time with their children without any phones, even if that just means enjoying screen-free meals together.
Parents should also promote healthy screen time habits like refraining from screens near bedtime, as this can help reduce eye damage from the screens’ blue light.
It is unrealistic to take screens away from children completely, but limiting their screen time to an hour or less and ensuring they are watching plenty of educational apps will allow them to adapt to the technological age while preventing brain damage.