Parents often stress about the number of hours their kids spend on tablets or smartphones each day.
According to a 2018 research study, it was found that globally, 4 out of 5 teenagers, were addicted to screens. Similar ratio also reflects amongst younger children. The same study concluded that the addiction starts at a much younger age and by the time the child is 5 years old, he/she is most often completely addicted to the screen.
In this day and age, it has become a common sight that whenever a child is not listening to the parent or is throwing a tantrum to get attention, the screens become parent’s saviour. The quantity and variety of content out there is huge and hence keeps the little minds busy for hours.
That was about the why and what of digital age but how about looking into the impact of it ?
Apart from vision-development issues, spending time in front of a screen has been linked to numerous mental and physical disorders such as;
- Lack of proper sleep
- Speech Delays
- Poor development of motor skills
- Hand-eye coordination issues
- Poor Social Skills
- Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Lack of Curiosity
- Compromise on cognitive development
- Glandular Problems
and unfortunately many more…
But, going forward, Sarah Domoff, assistant professor, psychology, Central Michigan University, says that “the larger problem is the fact that it could be an all-consuming activity.”
And when this happens, it could lead to other allied problems to screen addiction.
Ironically, most parents have difficulty accepting that their child is facing screen-addiction. Most common narrative is – He does not eat without watching a cartoon / The only way she stops crying is by watching something on YouTube / I have fixed his screen-time and that gives me my me-time and he is also happy / She only watches the good programs on internet / He is not addicted to phone and ipad like other kids !
Well, to all who are parents of young children, here are some red flags to watch out for:
- Uncontrollable Screen Use
This is also called ‘unsuccessful control’.
This happens when kids face trouble in stopping using devices. If you have tried imposing limits on screen time, but your child has reacted with a tantrum or in anger, Uncontrollable Screen Use could already be an issue.
- Loss of Interest
If your child has lost interest in things which would normally excite children, (books, toys, sports, outdoors, rains, etc.) they might be suffering from a side-effect of long-term screen use. Try to reduce the time they spend with screens.
- Loss of Concentration
The next step of loss of Interest is Loss of Concentration.
While away from the screen, if your kid keeps talking about Angry Birds / other characters or wonders what the next YouTube post he/she wants to watch or keeps repeating noises from his favourite game, it indicates loss of concentration and garbled thoughts. The only thing on their mind, now, is to go back and watch something on the screens.
- Interfered Socializing
The most common thing that parents resort to during dinner or get-togethers is letting the child watch what they love. But soon, this turns into a habit. The child starts bringing the tablet to the table, sneaks peeks while people are having a conversation with him, or even getting bored amongst friends.
These are classic symptoms of Interfered Social Life, and it is not the same as being Anti-Social. Interfered Socializing causes children to want to be social, but their screen addiction forces them to not enjoy anything else.
Interfered Socializing, with family or otherwise, can lead to serious issues in the future.
- Family Issues
Unhealthy relationships with the screen take a toll on quality family time. When children become addicted to screens, the communication between the family starts fading, eventually breaking down completely.
This leads to blowout arguments over simple things and behavioural changes according to whatever children are watching.
- Sleeping Disorders
Exposure to screens leads to severe sleeping disorders. The barrage of colours and moving images with the bright screen hamper REM patterns leading to lack of sleep, intermittent sleep, or uncomfortable sleep in children. This is not the same as the good old bad-dream nights of the non-digital era!
- High Tolerance
Children lose their tolerance threshold. Remember when we were children? We could watch the TV, but eventually our eyes would hurt. The new-age technologies have made viewing easier. That’s probably why children today do not realise that they are constantly glued to the screen.
- Mood Swings and Booster
Screen addiction becomes severe when it is the only thing that uplifts the spirits of your child. When they resort to their favourite show or a game to uplift their spirits, parents can be rest assured that the child is addicted to the screen.
This also leads to them being more dependent on the screens to improve their life. And this takes a toll on healthy venting of emotions and communication. Such children only want an escape and they find it in their screens. Remember those hours of sobbing into mother’s laps ? If mothers do not get that anymore, maybe the lap is being replaced by lap-top!
Perhaps the most dangerous effect of screen addiction is that children start to lie about how much time they’ve spent using the tab/phone. It has been observed that children also sneak in their tablets and phones into bed to continue viewing or using it during potty breaks. While lying could be a harm-less innocent act through most of the childhood but when it is observed in the space of laid out do’s and don’ts, it needs a deeper observation and resolution.
goDiscover Expert’s Tip:
It can not be specified which of these or how many of other such warning signs a kid might exhibit to point towards screen addiction. But, if a child checks off more than a few of these boxes, a parent might want to reconsider the amount of time he/she is spending using the tablet/phone.
It is difficult to compete with the sensory overload that screens offer but using interactive toys such as SmartBooks and SmartCharts will help every parent wean young ones off the screens and engage them multi-sensorily.