HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

December 15, 2018


How many “screen-time” hours do you spend each day?  Any idea? Now, let’s face facts, an adult working a full-time job requiring daily hour-long screen time may be a necessity.  We all know that but how about our children and grandchildren?

I’m old enough to remember when television was a laboratory novelty and telephones were “ringer-types” affixed to the cleanest wall in the house.  No laptops, no desktops, no cell phones, no Gameboys, etc etc.  You get the picture.  That, as we all know, is a far cry from where we are today.

Today’s children have grown up with a vast array of electronic devices at their fingertips. They can’t imagine a world without smartphones, tablets, and the internet.  If you do not believe this just ask them. One of my younger grandkids asked me what we did before the internet.  ANSWER: we played outside, did our chores, called our friends and family members.

The advances in technology mean today’s parents are the first generation who have to figure out how to limit screen-time for children.  This is a growing requirement for reasons we will discuss later.  While digital devices can provide endless hours of entertainment and they can offer educational content, unlimited screen time can be harmful. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents place a reasonable limit on entertainment media. Despite those recommendations, children between the ages of eight (8) and eighteen (18) average seven and one-half (7 ½) hours of entertainment media per day, according to a 2010 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.  Can you imagine over seven (7) hours per day?  When I read this it just blew my mind.

But it’s not just kids who are getting too much screen time. Many parents struggle to impose healthy limits on themselves too. The average adult spends over eleven (11) hours per day behind a screen, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  I’m very sure that most of this is job related but most people do not work eleven hours behind their desk each day.

Let’s now look at what the experts say:

  • Childrenunder age two (2) spend about forty-two (42) minutes, children ages two (2) to four (4) spend two (2) hours and forty (40) minutes, and kids ages five (5) to eight (8) spend nearly three (3) hours (2:58) with screen media daily. About thirty-five (35) percent of children’s screen time is spent with a mobile device, compared to four (4) percent in 2011. Oct 19, 2017
  • Children aged eighteen (18) monthsto two (2) years can watch or use high-quality programs or apps if adults watch or play with them to help them understand what they’re seeing. children aged two to five (2-5) years should have no more than one hour a day of screen time with adults watching or playing with them.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines on how much screen timeis appropriate for children. … Excessive screen time can also lead to “Computer Vision Syndrome” which is a combination of headaches, eye strain, fatigue, blurry vision for distance, and excessive dry eyes. August 21, 2017
  • Pediatricians: No More than two (2) HoursScreen Time Daily for Kids. Children should be limited to less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day, and shouldn’t have TVs or Internet access in their bedrooms, according to new guidelines from pediatricians. October 28, 2013

OK, why?

  • Obesity: Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for becoming overweight.
  • Sleep Problems:  Although many parents use TV to wind down before bed, screen time before bed can backfire. The light emitted from screens interferes with the sleep cycle in the brain and can lead to insomnia.
  • Behavioral Problems: Elementary school-age children who watch TV or use a computer more than two hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems. Excessive TV viewing has even been linked to increased bullying behavior.
  • Educational problems: Elementary school-age children who have televisions in their bedrooms do worse on academic testing.  This is an established fact—established.  At this time in our history we need educated adults that can get the job done.  We do not need dummies.
  • Violence: Exposure to violent TV shows, movies, music, and video games can cause children to become desensitized to it. Eventually, they may use violence to solve problems and may imitate what they see on TV, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, says Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon, he says, “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.”

Between birth and age three, for example, our brains develop quickly and are particularly sensitive to the environment around us. In medical circles, this is called the critical period, because the changes that happen in the brain during these first tender years become the permanent foundation upon which all later brain function is built. In order for the brain’s neural networks to develop normally during the critical period, a child needs specific stimuli from the outside environment. These are rules that have evolved over centuries of human evolution, but—not surprisingly—these essential stimuli are not found on today’s tablet screens. When a young child spends too much time in front of a screen and not enough getting required stimuli from the real world, her development becomes stunted.

CONCLUSION: This digital age is wonderful if used properly and recognized as having hazards that may create lasting negative effects.  Use wisely.

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