Too Much Screen Time: the Effects of Excessive Technology for Kids


Although 80 percent of parents believe that electronic devices help their child’s development, surveys also reveal parental concerns about the time spent on these gadgets. Most children devote more than seven hours each day watching videos, monitoring social media or playing video games. Too much screen time can lead to detrimental health effects.

PHYSICAL EFFECTS

The overuse of electronic devices can cause chronic sleep deprivation. Children need restorative sleep because their bodies and brains are rapidly developing and growing. The average child should get 10 and 12 hours of sleep each day. Since the introduction of electronic devices, many children only sleep six to eight hours. According to surveys, children who have a device in their bedrooms are more likely to experience sleep deprivation. Research confirms that nighttime exposure to the blue light emanating from the screen disrupts circadian rhythms by suppressing melatonin, a hormone that prepares the body and mind for sleep. Common signs of sleep deprivation include impaired attention, poor school performance and sensory overload.

The excess use of these electronics encourages a sedentary lifestyle that increases the risk for childhood obesity, which has reached epidemic proportions. Short bursts of physical activity are not enough to compensate for the ill effects of playing games, surfing the net and watching videos. The affinity for these sedentary activities has also increased the risk for metabolic syndrome, which traditionally afflicted middle-aged adults. The disorder includes a combination of serious diseases like diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure as well as elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS

Excess screen time also restructures the brain. A landmark study discovered that gray matter shrank in the frontal lobe, a portion of the brain responsible for executive functions like impulse control and cognition. Overuse of electronic devices also compromised the integrity of white matter associated with emotions. Long periods spent in front of a video screen can lead to eyestrain. The blue light also damages the retina. Text thumb and several other medical terms have been coined to describe physical ailments associated with the overuse of electronic devices.

Children who spend too much time with electronic devices typically have poor social skills. Although they interact with others online, children may lack the ability to handle a one-on-one conversation in person. The preference for electronics over face-to-face interactions hinders the development of crucial social etiquette skills required for all aspects of an adult’s personal and professional life. If the child’s favorite pastime involves violent video games, this aggression may erupt during his or her personal interactions.

Because of the negative physical and psychological effects of excess electronic use, it is important that parents limit their children’s screen time. Children 2 and under should not have electronic devices or watch television. While the recommendation for individuals aged two to five is no more than an hour per day, older children should not use electronics more than two hours a day. The time can be better spent engaged in activities that promote a healthy lifestyle and prepare the child for adulthood.


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