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Are children getting too much screen time?

Screen time is a term used to describe time spent in front of televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets. Most screen time these days comes from the use of mobile phones and tablets. What some parents don’t realise when they give their 6-year-old a phone is that there are several issues linked to too much screen time in children.

Back in the 80’s – 90’s, a lot of children wanted TVs in their rooms, which left parents wondering what was next. Now, with most family households now having internet connections, children now want either own tablet and phone, or both. It’s understandable that a child has a laptop for schoolwork, but that should really be all they need up to a certain age. With the large variety of games and streaming services now available on smartphones (like YouTube), compared to what was around over 15 years ago, it’s no wonder why a hand held device like a mobile phone is a gift that a lot of children as young as 6 are putting on Christmas and birthday wishlists.

However, how much screen time is too much?

Research shows that too much time in front of screens can cause “computer vision syndrome”, a condition that develops as a result of too much screen time for that matter. Symptoms of this condition include headaches, blurred vision, fatigue, eye strain, dry eyes, double vision and many more listed here on Wikipedia. All of these symptoms all lead to productivity and learning difficulties at school. Some research has also shown that too much screen time can lead to greater eyesight problems in children as well, according to research information compiled by All About Vision.

Alongside the eyesight problems that can occur from too much screen time are issues such as obesity (which, of course, is not a new finding), lack of sleep, learning complications, social interaction difficulties and issues making friends, to name a few. Children don’t seem to be spending much time outdoors these days, interacting with other children their age. Instead, they are at home using technology.

According to Raising Children, child development professionals recommend limiting the daily screen time allowed because real-life interaction is extremely important to a child’s learning progress. It’s been proven that giving children smartphones at young ages can be quite detrimental to social skills, enough to impact adulthood, as children need to be interactive with others at a young age in order to learn and grow.

There is also evidence that the blue light from devices like smartphones affect the brain and body.

Every TV, laptop, smartphone, tablet secrete a blue light. What this blue light does is that it impersonates the brightness of the sunlight and makes your mind feel like it’s daytime, even in the evening when you’re using your phone at night. This is why a lot suffer from insomnia, without realising. It is also why it’s recommended to limit screen time in order to get a good night sleep.

Apart from sleeping difficulties, research shows that blue light can also damage your vision, harming the retina, particularly in children as they are still growing. We also all know that not getting enough sleep will also affect your mind and body the next day, which ultimately leads to poor decision making the next day.

Knowing how affected you are by lack of sleep as an adult, would you like your child to feel the same during a day of school?

You probably wouldn’t!

Apart from the fact that smartphones can lead to these particular issues mentioned, it’s also a good idea to lock any smartphone down given to your children, so your child can only use the applications you have installed on it. You should set a secure password for the app store on the phone that your child can’t guess and not leave it signed in either If you do this, your child shouldn’t be able to access apps that they shouldn’t, such as additional games that won’t help their learning. It’s also a good idea to watch what your child does on YouTube, as there is a lot on there that your child shouldn’t need to see. Apps that are installed on any smartphone or tablet should also only expand a child’s learning.

So, be sure to start with limiting screen time for your child and that your child doesn’t go to bed with a phone or tablet on their bedside table.