One may say, “Parenting has never been easy” and yes we agree to that, it definitely has not been easy. But with the rise of social media platforms and widespread use of smartphones – for playing games or watching series or videos, the parenting task has leveled up.
A study shows that almost 66% of the parents state that Parenting today is harder than it was 20 years ago, with technology being the prime reason.
One of the most highly discussed topics among parents today is screen time – How much is too much screen time? And does screen time affect children – their health and behavior?
The effect screen time can have on children is drastic – If young children spend most of their time engaging with smartphones or even television, they will not be interested in engaging with toys that incite creativity, they will not want to watch the nature and explore their imagination, they will miss out on exploring other outdoor activities and engaging and playing with children to interact and exchange good skills and good habits. In short, they will miss out on learning and interacting with real life.
Involving young children in these (non-screen) activities is very important, especially for those under the age of 3 as development at this stage is very rapid. As amazing as all of our screens are, they simply don’t serve babies and toddlers well in spite of any educational value they may have and the temporary relief they provide to parents. They hook children at the tenderest age possible, giving them unhealthy habits that can be difficult to change in the years to come. In the end, parenting becomes harder.
So how does screen time exactly affect children?
- Children who spend a lot of time on smartphones, iPads, etc. tend to perform poorly during the early elementary school years. This is majorly due to deficits in attention or difficulty in concentrating.
- Children younger than 3 years have a limited ability to grasp from videos. They learn more from live interaction with people. Screen time takes away from play time, which is important for growth development, learning and problem solving.
- Language skills can be hampered. Children learn the casual way of interacting. They could also learn the wrong words or abusive speech.
- This is one of the biggest concerns – lack of emotional development. Parents are so used to handing over devices to their children as a means to keep them distracted while they complete their chores – be it grocery shopping, getting some laundry dine or eating out. This might seem a good idea to the parents at that moment, however, you are preventing them from learning emotional skills on how to regulate boredom, distress, and other emotions and how to behave in a social setting.
- More than ever before, the vision of young ones is being compromised. Children as young as 5 are experiencing epidemic levels of myopia and screen time may be to blame.
- Low quality, shorter sleep patterns are noticed in children who excessively use smartphones. This can cause problems with headache, lower attention span and cranky kids.
In spite of the problems, we are not saying that screen time in itself completely evil. All we want to convey is, excessive use of screen time at a younger age causes much harm than good. When children are introduced to these devices at a later age, they are often better able to use it wisely.
We hear a lot of parents say that it is impossible for them to manage their ones without giving in their demands for using the smartphone. Sometimes they have to do it to complete their work and although they are guilty, they are left with no option.
As much as possible try and engage your children in outdoor activities, reading books, playing with interactive and imaginative toys like Legos. Make sure you are always talking to them about positive things – reminding them to say thank you, learning to smile, teaching them how plants grow and why they are important and more such talks. However, not all parents today are able to do so – work life, family, events and more such events can hamper your time spends with your children’s and when they need your attention, you might want to distract them with a smartphone (Sadly, with all the guilt!). But what you can do hear is make sure you have a parental control app installed on the phone.
Parental control apps allow you to control what your child can watch or do on the phone. It can also give you control on the amount of screen time your child is allowed to use. This way, you are more limiting your child’s screen time at the same time protecting them from unwanted content exposure.
To conclude, let’s try our best to keep our kids screen-free at a young age, so we can make them smarter, healthier and happier.