Screen Time Overload: Unveiling the Impact on Children and Young Adults and Recommendations for Optimal Usage

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Thunder Bay – Living – It is summer, it is beautiful outside. Your children and teenagers however seem glued to their video screen, endlessly chatting to friends.

As a parent or grandparent, this of course is hard for you to understand. As a child you likely spent endless hours in summer outside playing. Often it was the streetlights going on that were the signal to get home.

Today however often parents and grandparents will witness their young ones prefer to stay inside and be on screens.

What can you do about it?

The Growing Trend of Screen Time

In the digital age, the amount of time that children and young adults spend in front of screens, including televisions, computers, and smartphones, has increased significantly. The repercussions of excessive screen time are becoming an increasing concern, affecting both physical and mental health.

Impacts on Physical Health

An escalating issue with overexposure to screens is the effect on physical health. The sedentary nature of screen time is directly associated with an increase in obesity, potentially leading to heart disease, diabetes, and other health complications. Extended periods of inactivity can also impact the development of gross motor skills in children.

Moreover, excessive screen time can lead to sleep disturbances. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Studies show that children and young adults who spend more time in front of screens often experience issues with falling asleep, staying asleep, and feeling rested.

Impact on Mental Health

In addition to physical health concerns, high amounts of screen time can lead to various mental health issues. Children and young adults are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression with extended screen exposure. Excessive screen use also affects cognitive development, particularly in younger children, as it often replaces time that could be spent on more enriching activities.

Furthermore, it can also lead to problematic social interactions. Young people, during their formative years, learn critical social skills through face-to-face interactions, which can be compromised with excessive screen use. This can lead to social isolation and issues with social behaviour.

Expert Recommendations on Screen Time

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 18 months should avoid screen time, other than video-chatting. Children aged 18 to 24 months can begin to introduce digital media, but it should be high-quality programming that is viewed with parents. For children aged 2 to 5 years, screen time should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality programming.

For children and teenagers aged 6 and older, the AAP advises parents to establish consistent limits on the time spent using media, the types of media, and ensure media does not interfere with adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviours essential to health.

Strategies for Healthy Screen Time

While it’s clear that excessive screen time can have detrimental effects, screens are now an integral part of life. Therefore, it’s essential to develop strategies to use them healthily. Some tips include:

  • Create a Media Use Plan: Families should establish a media use plan that takes into account the health, education, and entertainment needs of each child as well as the whole family.
  • Ensure Quality: Not all screen time is equal. Encourage educational programming and interactive apps that engage rather than passive watching.
  • Promote Active Time: Encourage physical activities and hobbies that don’t involve screens.
  • Set Clear Boundaries: Set consistent rules about screen time, including “tech-free” zones in the house and limiting screen usage before bedtime.

Oh yeah, remember if you are endlessly scrolling on your tablet or smart phone and trying to tell the rest of the family not to do that, you will be looked at and likely ignored.

Practice what you preach!

Screen time is a fact of life in the digital age. Understanding its potential impacts and developing strategies to mitigate these effects can help ensure that children and young adults can reap the benefits of technology without suffering its potential negative impacts.

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