How Does Screen Time Affect Children?


This article is evidence-based, verified by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Today’s children grow up surrounded by all kinds of electronic devices, which they learn how to use from the youngest age. Soon enough, they cannot imagine their life without the Internet, or their smartphone, even though they are way too young to use these things in the first place. 

Although some parents might find it helpful to lend their smartphone to their child while they prepare dinner or do the laundry, they are still left to figure out how much screen time is too much.

Because there is something as “too much” when it comes to using modern electronic devices nowadays, they have multiple adverse effects not only on our children’s health but on ours, as adults, as well.  

How much screen time is too much? 

Nowadays, parents are strongly recommended to place a reasonable limit on using any type of electronic device for entertainment purposes. Did you know that children under the age of 2 are strongly advised against using any electronic devices whatsoever?

That includes your smartphone, television, laptop, etc. As for older children and teenagers, no more than two hours a day is the recommended amount of screen time on a daily level.  

Despite that, science shows that today’s children and teenagers are exposed to too much screen time that tends to reflect negatively on their mood, sleeping habits, diet, and overall health – physical and mental.

A 2010 study has revealed that children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of 7 ½ hours in front of the screen. And their parents are not left out as well, suggesting that adults as well, tend to spend around 11 hours in front of the screen. 

The negative effects of excessive screen time on our children 

Too much screen time is dangerous and poses multiple harmful effects on physical and mental health. This includes the time that perhaps you are spending as a family in front of the TV as well, so you might want to consider finding a new family time activity in the future as soon as you read through the many adverse effects that we are about to tell you. 

Increased risk of obesity 

Just like adults, spending too much time in front of the computer or TV can easily lead to childhood obesity. The increased risk of obesity can be supported by three main reasons.  

Children who are spending too much time in front of the screen tend to sit and be less physically active throughout the day. Besides, just like adults, they tend to eat more while watching TV, with that being unhealthy food choices.

Children also tend to develop unhealthy eating habits and eat more unhealthy foods due to the various commercials and ads that they keep seeing on TV and online. 

Increased risk of sleep problems 

Although this is often a bedtime habit of most adults and children, it is one that you would like to change for the sake of maintaining good health for you and your children. Looking at the screen before bedtime can easily disrupt your child’s sleep cycle.

It is the dangerous blue light that comes from the screen of your smartphone and the computer that interferes with the sleep cycle and eventually leads to insomnia.  

And once again, the risk of obesity is increased with children snacking on unhealthy foods right before bed as they fall asleep in front of their computer, TV, or smartphone. So you can see how this all adds up and results in poor health for your children.  

A tendency to develop behavioral problems 

Children who spend more than two hours a day in front of the screen tend to have a higher tendency to develop behavioral problems. This would include issues related to their attention, but also social and emotional problems.  

These issues would reflect poorly on their status at school, causing them trouble keeping up good grades, making friends, and even leading to them being bullied more often at school.

On the other hand, children who spend less than 30 minutes a day in front of the screen, socializing, and being more physically active, tend to struggle less with behavioral problems, bullying, and have higher educational success. They can also fight with a higher risk of anxiety and depression, among other common mental health issues. 

Delayed development 

We mentioned how children under the age of 2 are not supposed to be exposed to any screen time whatsoever. Too much screen time within children under the age of 2 brings the risk of delayed development.  

For the child to develop properly, it needs to spend some quality time on a daily level with the other people around it, especially its parents. But when it is left alone in front of the TV that is not happening.

Too much screen time can delay learning how to talk process, reducing the number of words that the child is learning, the facial expressions, the body language, etc. 

The negative impact of screen time on autistic children 

Children with autism are especially vulnerable to the various adverse effects that too much screen time brings in their lives. Since their brains are more sensitive, these children are more prone to experiencing the previously mentioned adverse effects and many more, in addition to not being able to recover from the damage that too much screen time has done. 

Autistic children tend to have sleep issues due to low melatonin that can additionally worsen with spending too much time in front of the TV. They will also be exposed to acute and chronic stress, overstimulation, and emotional dysregulation due to the extended amount of screen time that they are exposed to.

Screen time can worsen the already present inflammation in the brain among children with autism, causing their symptoms to worsen, especially when it comes to their anxiety, social, and communication deficits.  

Conclusion 

It is of vital importance that parents set reasonable boundaries when it comes to using the variety of electronic devices that we engage with today.

While electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones present a plethora of benefits and potential for success, we should be mindful of their adverse effects, particularly on the developing mind. Every additional hour spent in front of the TV is more than enough of a reason to make some decent changes at home. 

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed, MD holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. An avid contributor to the Huffington Post and Chicago Tribune, Dr. Zayed believes in providing accurate and accessible information to general readers. With years of writing and editing content in the medical niche, Dr. Zayed likes to think of himself as a man with a mission, keeping the internet free of false medical information.

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