By—Dr Anjali Sangwan
TV , the babysitter, drugged the children. So did the Smart phone. The Video Game Console.The Tablet.The Computer.Screens all of them!
Screens babysit children. Entertain them every single day. But, somewhere something sinister is at work. Screens help the devil Dopamine let out.
Dopamine. That pleasure-giving chemical percolates into children’s brains. Just as it does when one is addicted to cocaine.It has designs on the children. Insidious and malicious.
Dopamine begins to change the very circuits of their brains.
Withdraw Screens and you have cranky, moody children. Pestering for more Screen time.
The damage is almost done.We have set the stage for a lifetime’s Screen habits for children.”Sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep and hyper-aroused nervous system,” would probably be a medic’s diagnosis. Medical gobbledygook ! Did you say?
Take a look at some of the damages Screens are capable of doing in young, still-developing brains.
DAMAGE CAPABILITY OF SCREENS:
- Disturbed sleep and poor academic performance:
Any electronic Screen before bedtime disrupts sleep, say experts. A ‘blue light’ is emitted from all Screens, even when they are switched off. Brains get stimulated with the ‘blue light’ instead of shutting down for deep sleep.
The body clock is upset.Without the required 10-12 hours of deep sleep, children wake up groggy-eyed, tantrum-throwing difficult beings.
“No matter what it is, if you don’t move your eyes and set the pace yourself, your intellect is sentenced to death.The mind, you see, is like a muscle. For it to remain agile and strong, it must work.Television rules that out”.–Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale
Can we lament when teachers complain of the short attention span and poor academic performance of children in school?
- Childhood obesity:
When children spend almost double the leisure time with electronic Screens instead of playing outdoors, their health is at stake. Prolonged physical inactivity makes them lazy.Television advertisements of high-sugar, high-salt junk food tempt children into bingeing.
Experts notice an epidemic rise in overweight children, right from kindergarten.Screens are majorly responsible.
- Increased aggression and anxiety:
The more violent a Screen content, TV show or video games, the more aggressive children are likely to be. Both verbally and physically. They struggle with aggression at home, on the playground and in school.
- Rise in Vision problems:
Staring continually at Screens for too long causes strain and fatigue for eyes. How many of us remind our children of the 20-20-20 rule? The one that says every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.
- Stunted imagination and creativity:
“The Television is ‘real’.It is immediate, it has dimension.It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, ‘What nonsense!'”.–Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Contrary to claims made by Television shows and video games, children’s imagination and creativity has little productive relation with Screens. They need to spend time with real people in real situations, outside the virtual world. Lack of frequent face-to-face interaction, may impact your child’s ability to process emotion properly. Scope for imagination and creativity is bleak.
PARENTAL CONTROL :
The US Department of Health recommended (in 2013) that children under 2 years of age should watch no Screen at all. The French government has even banned digital terrestrial TV aimed at children under 3. Australia and Canada have similar recommendations.
- Limit your own Screen time:
Before children discover that you preach what you don’t practice, pay attention to children undivided by Screens. Parental role modelling applies here too.
- Set the Screen limit for children above 3:
A maximum of 1 hour a day, say most experts, is more than enough. This aspect of parenting is similar to disciplining them.
- Make guidelines according to your family values:
Negotiable and non-negotiable rules for Screens in early childhood will help you regulate Screens later.Keep their choices in mind for Screen activities and shows.
- Allow no Screens in bedrooms and dining rooms:
Treasure family time with children; make it a no-Screen time. Make sure there is at least an hour’s gap between bedtime and Screens.
- Encourage hobbies:
Sport, reading, music, art, gardening and so many more. Diversions from Screens are plenty. Encourage deep concentration to spark creativity. Switch off noisy Screens when children are not watching them.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
If we do not limit our children’s exposure to Screens at an early age, parenting will become more challenging as children grow. Greater dangers lurk around the corner. Harmful content like pornography and bullying from other children, and maybe, becoming addicted to their devices, are a few to name.
I maybe wrong in my understanding of the threat perception of Screens. However, till I know better, I will be a skeptical parent.
What do you think of Screens, dear Readers? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.