As a parent, you often worry about the number of hours your kids spend on tablets or smartphones each day.
According to a recent study, globally, 4 out of 5 teenagers, are addicted to screens. Similar ratio is reflected amongst younger children. The study concludes that the addiction starts at a much younger age and by the time the child is 5 years old, he/she is completely addicted to the screen.
In today’s world, it is common to see a child who does not listen to the parent, throws a tantrum to get attention, and that is when screens become the parent’s saviour. The quantity and variety of content available is huge. It keeps the little minds busy for hours.
How does this impact a child?
Apart from vision-related issues, screen addiction is 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, said, “the larger problem is the fact that it could be an all-consuming activity.”
That is, it causes other allied problems related to screen addiction.
Ironically, most parents do not like to accept that their child is addicted to screens. The most common narratives are – He does not eat without watching a cartoon or She stops her cry only if she watches something on YouTube or I have fixed his screen-time and that gives me my me-time and he is also happy or She only watches the good programs on the internet or He is not addicted to phone and ipad like other kids!
Parents of young children must be aware of some red flags like:
Uncontrollable Screen Use
This is also called ‘Unsuccessful Control’.
We notice this when kids just cannot stop using their devices. You will know that ‘Uncontrollable Screen Use,’ is a problem when you impose limits on screen time and your child reacts with a tantrum or gets angry.
Loss of Interest
Your child loses interest in things which normally excite children of their age. Like books, toys, sports, outdoors, rains, etc for instance. This is a side-effect of long-term screen use. Reduce their screen-time accordingly.
Loss of Concentration
Due lack of concentration on their real world surroundings, your child talks about Angry Birds or other characters or wonders what the next YouTube post he/she wants to watch or repeats noises from their favourite game. The only thing on their mind is to go watch something again.
Usually at dinner time or get-togethers, parents let children watch what they love. But soon, it becomes a habit. The child brings the tablet to the table and doesn’t pay attention when people talk to them. They get bored even in the company of friends or relatives.
These are classic symptoms of ‘Interfered Social Life.’ It is not the same as Anti-Social. Interfered Socializing causes children to want to be social, but their screen addiction does not allow them to enjoy those moments.
Interfered Socializing, with family or otherwise, lead to serious issues in the future.
Unhealthy relationship with screens takes a toll on quality family time too. Screen addiction makes communication between the family members fade overtime. It eventually breaks down completely. It causes blownout arguments over simple things and behavioural changes depending on what they watch.
Exposure to screens causes severe Sleeping Disorders. The barrage of colours and moving images on the bright screen hampers the REM patterns. It causes lack of sleep or intermittent sleep, or uncomfortable sleep in children. Mind you, this is not the same as the good old bad-dream nights of the non-digital era!
Children lose their tolerance threshold. Years ago, children watched TV, but after a point, their eyes hurt. The new-age technologies are easy on the eyes. That is why children today do not realise that they are glued to the screen.
Mood Swings and Booster
Screen addiction is severe when it is the only thing that uplifts a child’s spirit. If a child resorts to their favourite show or a game to uplift their spirit, it means he/she is addicted to the screen.
It makes them dependent on the screens to improve their lives. It takes a toll on healthy venting of emotions and communication skills. Children look for an escape which they find in their screens. Do you remember sobbing on your mother’s lap? Maybe, mothers do not get that anymore because it is replaced by a lap-top!
Perhaps the most dangerous effect of screen addiction is when children start to lie about how much time they spend on their tab/phone. Children sneak in their tablets/phones into their bed too. When you notice your child lying frequently, you must observe and resolve the issue diligently.
goDiscover Expert’s Tip:
One cannot tell which of these or how many such warning signs a child might exhibit to point towards screen addiction. But, if a child ticks off more than a couple of these boxes, a parent must reconsider the amount of time their child spends on the screen.
It is difficult to compete with the sensory overload that screens offer but using interactive toys such as goDiscover’s SmartBooks and SmartCharts will help parents wean young ones off the screens and engage them multi-sensorily.