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home : education : area schools (other)
May 19, 2019

5/4/2019 7:30:00 AM
Screen time for kids: Pros and cons
Gayle Daniel
Crescent Elementary Principal

What is screen time, and is too much bad for your child's health? This question seems to be whirling around the media with drastic findings being reported on one side or the other. The truth is, it depends. Screen time includes anytime a smartphone, tablet, television, laptop, computer screen, or other blue light emitting piece of technology is used. Electronic devices have made our everyday life much easier, there is no doubt. Although, the opposite is also true; screen time can be significantly detrimental to the health of young children, teens and adults.

Electronic devices have helped in the education, medical, manufacturing, business and financial fields. In education, we can use electronics for homework, research, and practice. In the home, screen time can quickly add up when looking for a new recipe or vacation place, watching television or playing video games. This form of entertainment, along with social media, allow us to interact with others. We can discover new worlds, watch a how-to video, interface with friends or family living afar, and become a spectator of a big game happening on the other side of the world. Technology is ever changing and improving the way we interact with the world. It has made life much easier, as long as we maintain a balance.

When this balance is kiltered, the ramifications can be significant. Research has shown that negative effects on the brain have been discovered. In fact, addiction has also been reported which can lead to "gray matter atrophy," (Zhou 2011, Yuan 2011, Weng 2013, and Weng 2012). Healthy frontal lobe development determines one's success in every area of life; academic success, career advancement, and relationships. Studies have shown that due to excessive screen time, a thinning or shrinking of the brain's frontal lobe can occur. This area of the brain is where planning, prioritizing, organizing and impulse control are directed. When the development of the frontal lobe is disturbed, a potential lose or decrease of these functions are plausible. Findings are also proving that with significant screen time usage, decreases in our ability to develop empathy and compassion happen, and an increase of socially unacceptable impulses are emerging.

Our bodies can also be negatively affected due to the high use of devices. These can include eye damage, sleep deprivation, obesity, aches and pains, loss of social skills and aggression, to mention a few. With too much screen time, young eyes can lose peripheral vision, become nearsighted and develop dry eye syndrome. Also, the blue light that screens emit, tells our brains to "wake up," so by having televisions, phones, or tablets in our bedrooms, we are inviting our children to be awake. According to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), children need approximately 10-12 hours of sleep per night, so the AAP recommends that parents put away all screened equipment at least two hours prior to bedtime. Another increasing issue, which can lead to a lifetime of health issues, is obesity. Devices encourage humans to sit. Hours of being sedentary can be very harmful to joints, heart, and lungs. "Phone neck, text thumb and several other new medical terms had to be coined to describe the various aches and pains which are developing as a result to too much screen time," says Jeffrey Green of Additionally, kids that spend an excessive amount of time staring at screens frequently lack good social skills. This means they have difficulty interacting with others of all ages. Not all, but many video games feature violence. Again, too much interaction with violent shows or games can translate into aggression at home, school or community. Finally, researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital reported, "screen time was linked to poorer connectivity in areas that govern language and cognitive control" in younger students.

Teenagers though, researcher Jean Twenge has found, that over use electronics, in particular phones and texting, have "a strong link between time spent on screens and depression."

For all of these reasons, we need to have a balance with the use of screened devices.

Some prescribed guidelines for families from Amy Morin, LCSW, include:

• No digital devices during family meals

• No screen time in the car

• No screens allowed in bedrooms

• No electronic use during family fun times

The AAP recommends the following device usage times:

0-18 months = not usage

18-24 months = only high quality programming used with an adult

age 2 and older = an hour per day

Many school-aged children will use devices in school, so a limited amount of time in the home should be expected. As the adults, we need to set the example and follow the same rules. Children that see parents using electronics in excess, believe they can also do the same. Children will follow our example, thus working as a family toward a balance of appropriate amounts of screen time should lead to improved physical and brain health, as well as family relationships.

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