The most popular pastime of kids these days finds them screwed to their handheld devices. The new age games and programs run on these small screens have the miraculous capability to hook the kids up for endless hours. The dreadful bi-products of this trend have raised some far reaching concerns in the society today. Opening the media, we hear a lot of alarming cries from the parents, child medical specialists, socialists and educationists viewing the dangers of this addictive behavior of kids from their own angles.

Growing concerns

For so long, the alarms raised on this issue have been lamenting that being hooked up to the screen robs the kids of their chance to active physical life. Shockingly enough, this is not the end of the story. New researches by eminent psychologists reveal several grave offshoots of the issue stemming from the issue. Therefore the present times have forced upon us a dire need to explore the screen addiction of the kids from different perspectives and also seek the remedies that will save this generation from the ills associated with this malady.

The shocking bi-products of screen addiction

Therefore the question in front of us today is not only that too much screen time is bad for the physically active life of the kids. Many researches have brought to light that even active kids suffer several unwanted side effects affecting their psychological health, emotional balance, eye sight, brain health, academic performance and an involved and fun filled social life. Here we view some of these research reports and case studies pertaining to too much screen time.

Psychological distress caused by television viewing

A Scottish health survey examined the connection between psychological distress, television and screen entertainment and physical activity levels. He sample group considered for the research consisted of 1486 boys and girls between 4 and 12 years. The parents of this kids group were asked to fill a questionnaire on television and screen entertainment time, dietary intake and physical activity of the children. The study revealed a number of facts related to the changing lifestyles of kids.

About 25% of the kids had access to screen and television entertainment for not less than 3 hours a day. The consolidation of the reports showed that the higher the levels of television and screen entertainment, the lower is the level of physical activity combined with higher levels of psychological distress in the kids for unknown reasons.

Behavior issues caused by too much screen time

University of Bristol’s Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences in the UK conducted a study involving 1000 kids between 10 and 11 years old. The study accepted two hours a day of screen time is moderate level for kids. More than two hours was found to bring about higher psychological difficulty scores. The researchers gauged the psychological well-being of the children by studying their emotions, conduct, peer and hyperactivity issues. The observation that surfaced from the research was quite surprising. Irrespective of the physical activity levels in these children, most observations revealed that the children spending too much time on screen were not happy underlining the note that playing computer games or watching TV for more than two hours a day is directly linked to greater psychological difficulties in children irrespective of their physical activity levels.

The results of the study indicated that a child spending hours of active play on the ground also runs the same risk of behavioral issues like that couch bound kid hooked to the screen as long as both of them devote more than two hours a day watching the screen of some kind. The conclusion of the report remarked that since too much screen time is directly related to several behavior issues in children, we can never hope to balance out the screen time with other kinds of activities both mental and physical.

The three years boy trapped in the world of his favorite show

Whereas Max should be actively running about in the school playing and making fun with the other kids of his age, he was found trapped in his own ‘Thomas The Tank Engine’ world having trimmed his connections with the peers. He hardly speaks to the other children at the school and is found repeating the phrases he heard from the TV show like being obsessed.

A close examination of the boys; daily schedule showed that he was watching cartoons for more than five hours a day and the doctors feared it would have a far reaching impact on his communication skills and development. Later the boy was being treated by a specialist in California. The downside was the kid’s mother allowed him to watch as much TV as he wished to. Experts say like Max those children watching excessive TV programs of play video games run the risk of suffering learning difficulties as they grow up. Doctors advise framing strict guidelines with regard to screen time or even banning the children watching the TV altogether.

Some countries are already on the way to placing some regulations on the screen time of the kids. The Australian government took the lead by recommending that the children aged between two and five must spend a maximum of one hour a day on the screens. France has also banned programs exclusively made for children under five.

Excessive TV viewing affects the social skills and language of kids

An article published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics drew some observations from a case study pertaining to a three year old boy recommended for an intervention by a pediatrician due to frequent temper tantrums at home. At his Montessori school, the teachers are highly concerned that the boy lacked proper communication skills, but spend a lot of time discussing his favorite TV shows with his peers. As he kept repeating the stories, his peers seem to have got bored of him and withdraw from him.

At home, the kid’s mother found the boy unmanageable. When he was pulled from the screen, he hit, kicked and scratched his mother. Though he had an amazing vocabulary, all of it was picked up from cartoon shows. He was seen repeating a phrase from a program where the main character grows in size while getting angry and saying, “I hate it, leave me alone”. As per the mother’s statement, the boy had never used such terms before he was exposed to the TV show.

Too much Screen time can have adverse effects on kids

Too much screen time is fast spreading among today’s kids like an epidemic. About one third of kids between 12 and 15 years old spend not less than 2 hours on the screen. Over 6.9 percent of children spend over 5 hours with screens every day. Here we mean screen time to include activities on multiple screens including watching television, working on a computer, playing video games and using a smartphone or tablet. The multiple kinds of screen time can add up to 5 to 7 hours in a day. The American Association of Pediatrics say this is up by 2.5 hours over the readings during last decade.

  1. Childhood obesity

Commercials on the TV can also promote unhealthy eating options among the kindergarteners. In this segment of children, more than one hour of TV every day will mean the kids are 52 percent more likely to suffer obesity than those kids who watch less. Also, studies reveal that kids consume 167 additional calories per hour of television watched.

  1. Lack of sleep

Screen time of four hours per day will mean the kids will need 20 minutes longer to fall asleep than the other kids who do not spend that much time on the screen. It is also found that teenagers send on an average 34 messages after they get into their beds. Also, the concerning part of many researches show that the blue light from the screens can have the effect same as that of caffeine stealing sleep and encouraging agitation.

  1. Problems with studies

Four hours of daily screen time is connected to a full grade level drop in the average GPA scored by the kids. Also, the physical consequences of too much screen time include pain in fingers, neck, back and wrists. The eye blood vessels also narrow down leading to several complications.

Useful tips to fix the problem

  • It is high time that the parents realize the dreadful effects of too much screen time and take concrete steps to minimize the screen time to prevent the adverse effects on their kid’s health, happiness and development.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics advises never to allow kids of 2 years and under to view the screens since they learn best through interaction with real people and not with the screens.
  • The maximum screen time recommended for young children and teens is one to two hours of good quality content.
  • Always place the TVs, smartphones and computers outside the bedroom.
  • Place strict restrictions on screen time during homework and meals.
  • You can think of providing an interesting activity or reading a book as a reward for limited screen time.
  • Place a strict curfew on smartphone
  • Children always get inspired by their parents. Decrease your own screen time to set a good example to your kids.

For more information about the effects of too much screen time, see the full infographic below! (Designed by Statefarm)

Additional resources

  1. MedLine Plus Medical Encyclopedia, “Screen time and children”; https://www.nlm.gov
  2. The Dallas Morning News, “Too much screen time is harmful for children; what can parents do?”; http://www.dallasnews.com
  3. Las Angeles Times, “Study Makes Surprising Link Between TV Time and Childhood Obesity”; http://www.latimes.com
  4. The American Journal of Family Therapy, “Examining the Interface of Family and Personal Traits, Media, and the Academic Imperatives Using the Learning Habit Study”; http://goodparentinc.com
  5. The New York Times, “Screen Addiction if Taking a Toll on Children”; http://well.blogs.nytimes.com
  6. American Academy of Pediatrics, “Media and Children”; https://www.aap.org
  7. State Farm Infographic, “The effects of too much screen time”; https://www.statefarm.com

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