As technology becomes an extension of our own hands, more and more of our children are growing up from a young age with an iPhone, iPad or a TV screen as a major component of their daily lives.
The increased accessibility of handheld devices have expedited technology use at an alarming five times the recommended daily dosage.
What we must understand as parents is the correlation between screen time exposure and both developmental and health issues in our children, believes leading Sydney clinical child psychologist Dr Anna Cohen, of Kids & Co.
“If mental nourishment is the key to our children’s success, why are we feeding them junk?” she says.
“In an effort to ensure a sustainable and successful future for our children, guidelines of technology use for children and youth are strongly recommended.”
Research has shown the health effects of those children who have digested more than the recommended daily dose of screen time, Anna adds.
Below she outlines the key issues:
1. Rapid brain growth
From birth, children are in a constant state of development and this continues rapidly until early adulthood as the brain is not fully developed until 25 years of age, so it’s no wonder why these years are vital to ensuring your child’s environment has a positive impact on their learning. Whilst it is important that your child is still subjected to technology, the issue lies within the stimulation caused by overexposure. Common problems include attention deficit, difficulties learning and the inability to self-regulate, meaning more tantrums!
2. Delayed development
What we don’t realise by allowing our children to be attached to their technological device is that we are restricting their ability to play and to find ways to fill unstructured time. ….not helping them to fit in with the other children.
3. Epidemic obesity
Most parents now still have the luxury to look back upon their own childhood and relish in memories of themselves playing outside, needing only their imagination or perhaps having an abundance of friends around. Active minds and active bodies have been replaced with the stationary “activity” of TV and video game use, leading to an increase in obesity. In classrooms sized 30 across Australia, six classmates are obese and two will develop diabetes with a gravely shortened life expectancy. The life expectancy of 21st century children may well be the first whom will not outlive their parents.
4. Sleep deprivation
Sufficient sleep is an essential part of healthy living. Children, whom have adopted an unhealthy appetite for extensive screen exposure, largely suffer from sleep deprivation and subsequent grade loss.
The issue is the difficulty in its regulation and monitoring by us as adults, where over 60% of parents do not supervise their child’s use and 75% of children are allowed technology in their bedrooms.
As parents we want our children to be subjected to appropriate media content; Online content and video games poses a direct threat to appropriate exposure. Alarmingly accessible, exposure of violent media gives rise to violent behaviour and aggression in children. Children are highly impressionable and easily influenced by ideas portrayed by the media, so much so that the US has classified media violence as a public health risk.
For any parent, addiction is a worrisome problem for our children to encounter. Yet we have the ability to steer our children away from technological addiction, which one in 11 children will now face. Digital attachment of our children derives from our own focus; if we attach more to technology, we detach from our children and they attach to their device.
7. Children are missing out
While children spent more and more time on screens they are spending less and less time doing other activities. One area that children seem to be doing less and less of is being outdoors and in nature (this may be the local park, a garden or a patch of dirt etc.) A recent survey in Britain found that children spend as much time in the bathroom are they do outdoors experiencing nature. Have a think about your own child? When was the last time they rode their bike, built a cubby in the backyard or went fishing, when did they last go on an adventure? Our children are having adventures on the screen but are not having then in real life. There needs to be a balance. By not experiencing the outdoors and nature our children are missing out and as parents we need to make a change to ensure that our children are not experiencing the world through a screen but rather through their own hands on experience.
The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing has adopted these guidelines to ensure the safety of Australian children.
0-2 years: Must have no exposure to technology
3-5 years: Can be exposed to one hour of non-violent TV per day
6-12 years: Can be exposed to two hours of non-violent TV per day
13-18 years: Can be exposed to two hours of non-violent TV per day, are allowed to use handheld devices, are limited to 30 minutes of video games per day, and must not be exposed to online violent video games or pornography