Most parents won’t say an outright no to letting the littlest member of the household get some television or smartphone time – it's often been viewed as a somewhat convenient tool when it comes to occupying a child's attention. However, an excess of screen-time is of particular concern when it comes to children because there are a host of consequences that can affect both physical and mental development at such a young age.
Getting less sleep
When children spend more time in front of screens, they tend to sleep later at night which can lead to your child losing out on quality sleep, regardless of the number of naps taken. For every extra hour that your child spends on a device, he or she could be losing up to 15 minutes of sleep overall. Bear in mind that a healthy child should get up to 14 hours of sleep a day.
Playing games or watching shows on screens is a highly sedentary activity, and long hours of these in early childhood can lead to weight issues as your toddler grows up. While we all love a chubby and squishy baby, childhood obesity is indeed a rising pandemic and isn’t something to be taken lightly.
Difficulty in socialising
Children learn social behaviour and develop emotionally through play and interaction, much like how animals do in the wild. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that helps us navigate their way through social situations, such as reading non-verbal cues and interpreting others’ vocal tones and expressions. When children spend more time on their screens than interacting with others in real life, the development of the frontal lobe is impeded. This can lead to young kids having difficulty in discerning the virtual world from the real world, and this makes them behave passively in real life as they do with their screens.
Delay in picking up languages
There is a general misconception that we can teach our kids English or other mother tongue languages by letting them watch educational programmes. However, kids don’t actually learn effectively from virtual programmes until they’re at least 2.5 years of age. Furthermore, such programmes rarely encourage the kids to try speaking on their own. In fact, American research has found that every 30 minutes of extra screen time on a mobile device translates to a 50% higher risk of a child experiencing delayed speech.
Hindered learning ability
The passive nature of consuming content from a screen makes it nearly impossible for toddlers to engage in any cognitive processing. Screens are also a very two-dimensional way of letting kids learn things. Remember those touch-and-feel books that you sometimes find in the children's section of the library? Children need to exercise their five senses in order to truly learn about the environment around, either through touching different materials or smelling things or even tasting them – screens only engage the senses of sight and sound.
Shift in mindset
For children, growing up in the world where every prod gets an instantaneous reaction from the screen can end up distorting their world view as they grow older. Mobile games thrill kids because every time they touch the phone, it rewards them with an instantaneous response and a rush of pleasure via dopamine. Normalising instances such as this can lead to unhealthy expectations in terms of instant gratification and could affect how your children makes choices later on in life.
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