How Does Excessive Screen Time Affect Our Children?
Nowadays, children start using mobile phones, tablets, or other electronic devices from a very young age. Excessive screen time can negatively impact a child’s cognitive and physical health. In view of this, it’s essential to set limits on children’s exposure to screens.
The World Health Organization (WHO) drafted guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep in 2019. It describes a series of screen time guidelines for children.
With regard to younger children, WHO is clear about the matter. Screen time for children under one year is not recommended at all. As for children from one to four years of age, screen time shouldn’t exceed one hour per day.
The document states that parents should control the content that their children watch and that they should choose quality programming, preferably educational material. In addition, they state that it’s necessary for parents to be with their children in order to explain what content they should be watching.
Consequences of excessive screen time
The child’s body is what is mainly affected by excessive screen time, and there can be many different physical problems as a result of too much device usage.
On the one hand, children are becoming more sedentary. This is an issue that is causing great concern, as it constitutes a high risk factor for childhood obesity.
WHO defines “sedentary screen time” as the time we spend passively watching television, computers, mobiles, etc. It clarifies that this definition doesn’t include active screen games which require activity or movement.
On the other hand, experts found other physical problems as a result of excessive screen time. Here are some of the issues that are most frequently encountered:
- If your child has headaches and dry eyes, this may be caused by staring at a screen for a long period of time.
- Looking downwards for long periods at a time can cause back and neck pain.
- If your child is complaining of pain in his hands, then it may be caused by repetitive movements with his fingers playing with his mobile or console for hours.
Tips for healthy use of devices
- Encourage your children to be more physically active. Physical activity should be a regular part of their daily lives and lifestyle. Take advantage of screen time for your children to do physical exercise, as there are video games that require physical activity to play them.
- Set rules for the use of their devices in order to reduce their screen time. Although your children won’t be too happy about the idea of having rules for mobile and computer use, it’s important to find a good balance.
- Encourage your child to maintain a good posture. For example, keeping the mobile at eye level and taking breaks after 30 minutes of exposure to the screens will improve your child’s posture.
“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting children to work together and motivating them, teachers are far more important.”
It isn’t about stopping your children from using mobile phones, computers or other devices. Rather, it’s about making a healthy use of the time we spend on screens. Simply reduce your children’s sedentary time, pay attention to their good posture and, above all, encourage them to take part in physical activity.
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- (2019). Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/311664. Licencia: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO