A Note to Parents about Screen Time

September 06, 2019

Tablets are the ultimate shortcut tools: Unlike a mother reading a story to a child, for example, a smartphone-told story spoon-feeds images, words, and pictures all at once to a young reader. Rather than having to take the time to process a mother’s voice into words, visualize complete pictures and exert a mental effort to follow a story line, kids who follow stories on their smartphones get lazy. The device does the thinking for them, and as a result, their own cognitive muscles remain weak.

The brain’s frontal lobe is the area responsible for decoding and comprehending social interactions. It is in this corner of the mind that we empathize with others, take in nonverbal cues while talking to friends and colleagues, and learn how to read the hundreds of unspoken signs such as, facial expression, tone of voice, and more. These things add color and depth to real-world relationships.

The most crucial stage is in early childhood, during that same critical period, and the brain is dependent on authentic human interactions. So if our young children are spending most of their time in front of an screen instead of chatting and playing with teachers and other children, his empathetic abilities (the near-instinctive way you and I can read situations and get a feel for other people) will be dulled, possibly for good.

When you consider they’re only awake 12 hours a day, they could be spending almost half their waking hours in front of the screen. It really makes us wonder what are these children not doing while they are involved in screen time?  What are they missing out on during the five hours they’re passively viewing a screen.

Face-to-face interactions such as engaging with other children, with toys or reading books are more stimulating, experts said. Extensive TV watching for young children has been associated with shorter attention span, childhood obesity and developmental issues such as knowing fewer words and being less prepared for school.                         

Some Tips for Parents, Families & Caregivers:

Do not feel pressured to introduce technology early. Media interfaces are intuitive and children learn quickly.

Monitor children’s media. For example, know what apps are used or downloaded. Test apps before your child uses them, play together, and ask your child what he or she thinks about the app.

Turn off TVs and other devices when not in use. Background media can distract from parent-child interaction and child play, which are both very important in child language and social-emotional development.

Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent-child playtimes screen free and unplugged for children and parents. Turn off phones or set to “do not disturb” during these times.

Avoid exposure to devices or screens 1 hour before bedtime. Remove devices from bedrooms before bed.

Avoid using media as the only way to calm your children. Although media may be used to soothe children, such as during a medical procedure or airplane flight, using media as a strategy to calm could lead to problems with a child’s own ability with limit setting and managing emotions.

Information provided by Nurse Concepts

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