By Salma Neelofar
Kids, among the most vulnerable age group, spend a sizable part of their daily routine on screens nowadays. Many ask if such an extensive amount of screen engagement is safe for children?
Providing a bit of a context to this question, let’s be clear that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) strictly prohibit screen time for kids younger than two years. The exception is video calls with family. However, an hour of daily screen time is acceptable for the kids above 2 to 5 years.
A research, published in JAMA in 2019, predicted that by 2020, mental health issues will be one of the major causes of “morbidity and mortality” among adolescence. It further says that mental health issues including depression is the consequence of “the amount of time children spend in front of digital screens”
Health Effects of Screen Time on Kids
Excessive screen time has several detrimental effects on you kids’ physical, mental, and psycho-social health:
- Kids busy with digital screens, sitting in one place, with less physical activity leads to obesity.
- Screen time for children under age 2 hurdles cognitive development.
- More than one hour a day of screen time can lead to behavioural problems in older kids.
- Several types of researches have linked adolescence depression to extended screen time.
- Another research published in JAMA in July 2018 has associated frequent digital media engagement with the development of ADHD
- “Tearing, eye redness, eye rubbing and headache” are screen-associated ocular problem.
- Furthermore, sleep issues, poor performance in school, and inattention are also triggered by extended screen time
Good and Bad Screen Time
Not only the amount of screen time is concerning, but the quality of media, your child is open to, is also inevitable. Here comes the division of good screen time and bad screen time. Your kid watching something productive on media is good screen time. Whereas exposed to unethical content, violence, and unsuitable content for his/her age will be considered as bad screen time.
In my view, educational apps, Mad on Pogo channel, Quaid se Batein, Peppa Pig, and Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom are the best examples of good Screen time. Such kind of media not only enhance good linguistic and creative skills but also feed your kids with scientific, moral, social and cultural education. But Motu Patlu, Oggy translated in Hindi, and Booba cartoon without speech can be categorized as bad screen time. It can expose your kids to slang, violence and bad behaviour. Also, mental issues in some cases.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Recommendations for Kids’ Screen Time
In this regard, you need to be vigilant and selective with your children’s screen time. Here are some recommendations by AAP you can follow:
- To the kids younger than 2 years, any screen-associated activity should be discouraged except for video calling with family.
- No more than 1 hour or less of daily media usage with quality content is highly recommended.
- Do not let your little ones use social media on their own. Instead, accompany them and teach them healthy media use habit. Educate them on how to behave when something immoral comes their way.
- Be selective what you want your child to see on screens—block websites, channels, and blogs that are inappropriate for their age.
- Do not replace physical activity with media consumptions.
- Create a media plan for your family to adopt healthy screen habits. Following website can assist you in this regard.
Besides, there is no specific screen time limit recommendation for kids above 6 years. You can set your media watch time limits as per your kids’ routine and needs.
Moreover, you can teach your teenage kids to adopt expected behaviour on social media accounts to avoid any embarrassment in case.
With the ubiquity of various portable digital screens, neither it is possible to restrict your kids from screen time completely, nor is it suitable in today’s technology-driven world. The only step you can take for the betterment of your kids is to negotiate and educate—negotiate on the healthy media habits they need to adopt and educate on how to continue the habits they have adopted and make them lifetime healthy screen habits.