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Lifestyle: How Screen Time Is Affecting Your Child

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Unless you’ve been walking around with your eyes glued to one of these very same devices, there’s a good chance that you’ve noticed the rise in children and teenagers using mobile phones and tablets.

Indeed, yours may be one of those children; a child who’s now more accustomed to using such technology than you are. Technology has come on in leaps and bounds since we were children, providing a means of communication, education and entertainment to the next generation.

If we’re honest, screen time is also a great way to buy ourselves a little peace and quiet, and to minimize disruptions when we’re out.

However, many parents fail to realize that this increasing reliance on screen time is affecting their children’s development and wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Those very same devices that your children may adore could be the very reason behind that subtle change in his or her behavior, mood or development. Of course, screen time is awarded at a parent’s discretion, but how much damage is that moment’s peace doing?

The five ways screen time is affecting your child

While screen time is capable of enriching a child’s education, providing entertainment and introducing the concept of communication, too much time spent on a computer, console, cellphone or tablet device could have a detrimental effect on your offspring’s development and wellbeing. In fact, screen time could be…

Introducing your child to an early form of addiction

According to recent research, one out of every eight Americans will experience Internet Addiction Disorder during their lifetime, with many contemporary diagnoses occurring in children. The issue of addiction is one that’s capable of tearing a household apart. While such a statement may seem a little pessimistic, there’s a chance you’ve already noticed the symptoms; does your child have a tantrum when the tablet or phone is removed from their control?

Do they expect to receive screen time every day? Has he or she begun to take screen time for granted? Unless addressed, such behavior can spiral rapidly.

Stunting your child’s social and cognitive development

Does your child seem distracted, more often than not? Reduced interaction with parents and caregivers will often lead to children being unable to communicate effectively; young children routinely allowed access to a computer, tablet or phone screen will often struggle to communicate their needs and emotions coherently, since they’ve become unaccustomed to conversations that occur outside of the screen.

The images and sounds produced by a device require fast-paced sensory processing; screen time can, quite literally, reset a child’s ability to interact with the world. Such experiences can be truly polarizing, and increase the void between parents and their offspring.

Damaging your child’s health and wellbeing

Your child’s tendency to reach for the screen rather than a football or a bicycle could be hampering his or her physical wellbeing just as much as his or her mental health. Indeed, children who return from school and immediately seek out a tablet device or computer are far more likely to suffer from weight-related illnesses later in life; they’re simply not receiving the amount of exercise that they should be undertaking at this point in their lives.

Similarly, children spending an abnormal amount of time on a device are less likely to head outside into the fresh air, missing out on a world of opportunities that they would normally embrace.

Causing depression or associated mental health issues

Screen time isn’t only affecting your teen’s development, but also putting him or her at serious risk of depression or mental health issues. Addiction to social media is becoming an issue in many households across America, and it’s putting real pressure on teens to be seen as ‘normal’, and ‘popular’.

High exposure to mainstream media and social media is leading to many teenagers coming to have unrealistic expectations, and hampering their confidence. What’s more, the modern example of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ can lead children and teenagers to feel that their lives are somehow lacking – all for more ‘likes’. In some severe cases, children have been referred to nurturing facilities, such as Newport Academy, in order to deal with their tech addiction, or associated mental health issues that can occur due to too much screen time.

The pressure starts from an early age, and should be stopped in its tracks.

Altering your child’s behavior and mood

Most e-readers, cellphones and tablet devices use a blue light to illuminate their screens, which is seriously affecting the next generation of users. This blue light suppresses melatonin, which in turn is capable of disrupting sleep cycles and altering mood.

Screen time may offer a welcome distraction for children, but it’s also providing a sensory overload; as children’s eyes attempt to keep up with fast-paced games, videos, and colorful pixels, their brains are over-stimulated. Processing issues occur when children have difficulty distinguishing real life from the screen, causing them to experience issues with emotions, behavior and relationships.

Okay, so we’re all guilty of allowing our children to use tablet and mobile devices from time to time, but how much is enough? As a rule, screen time should be regarded as a treat, and given to children sparingly. The official policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, states that children aged two years and under should be exposed to no more than an hour of screen time a day, while children aged five years should be allowed to access a screen for two hours or less.

These findings are no doubt staggering – a real eye-opener for parents who may have been under the impression that a little screen time is harmless. You’d be right; a short amount of screen time is perfectly acceptable, as long as your child’s life is also enriched in other ways.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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