Limit screen time for healthy physical and mental development of children

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

Excess screen time can not only damage the eyes but also cause psychological and behavioral issues

New Delhi, 02 January 2018: A recent survey has found that over 30% of children in India spend more than six hours a day staring at a screen. It also found that about 57% of Indian parents surveyed were worried about the impact of this screen time on their children’s eyesight. What is more alarming is that the average age at which kids start using screens has declined from 3 to 5 years to 12 to 18 months in the past decade. Connecting screens and meal time is another unhealthy trend.

The impact of excess screen time is not just restricted to the eyes. A child’s brain develops rapidly in the first six years and needs constructive stimulation instead of a passive one. Screen content only makes for passive viewing. More than 10 minutes of exposure at a time can affect the development of the brain.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “There is a marked increase in screen time today, particularly among children. While it may seem easier to get work done or make the child eat by playing videos for them, it can have several long-term health implications. Watching something on the phone while having food may lead to overeating by blunting the child’s satiety signals. They can start making unhealthy connections between food and entertainment. Too much screen time is also a risk factor for developing myopia or short-sightedness. It can also lead to immense strain on the eyes and cause dry eyes.”

Screen-based media can influence children and their behaviour; for example, children can copy or be influenced by negative behaviour, sterotypical representations of gender, violent imagery or coarse language they see in advertising and other media.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “Having access to so many different streams of information through gadgets has been found to decrease the brain’s grey matter density, which is responsible for cognition and emotional control. In this digital era, the key to good health should be moderation i.e. moderate use of technology. Most of us have become slaves to devices that were really meant to free us and give us more time to experience life and be with people. And we are leading our children in the same path as well.”

Here are some tips to avoid Smartphone addiction in children.

  • Interact with them: Instead of giving them a phone to keep them busy, spend some time interacting with them and talking to them. This will eliminate the need for a device.
  • Put computers or TVs in shared spaces: This way it will be easier to keep track of their usage and limit screen time.
  • Opt for a tech-free time: Ensure devoting few hours in a day to zero screen time for the entire household.
  • Watch your habits: If, as parents, you devote a lot of time to mobiles and computers, children are naturally inclined to follow suit. Be a positive role model for them.
  • Eat together: Meal times should be free from screens and a time for the family to sit together and eat. Make this a practice.
  • Indulge in physical activity: Ensure that the children spend sufficient time in outdoor activities. This will make them less prone to using Smartphone.