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Dangers of too much screen time for children

Technology is an inescapable reality of modern parenting with children of every age spending hours in front of iPads, smartphones and television. That’s not always a bad thing: Educational apps and TV shows are great ways for children to sharpen their developing brains and hone their communication skills, not to mention the break these gadgets provide busy parents. But a number of troubling studies connect several negative impacts in children with extended exposure to electronic media, writes Milliam Murigi

1. Speech delay

A recent study found that babies who watch TV are at higher risk for having delayed language and cognitive development at 14 months old, especially if they’re watching TV shows that are meant for adults and older children.

TV watching decreases the likelihood of babies learning new words, playing, talking, and interacting with others around them. Toddlers benefit from social, face to face interaction with a real person.

2. Brain developmental delays

Watching too much TV can permanently change your toddler’s brain structure. If your toddler spends too much time watching TV, he will have a higher amount of grey matter near his front polar cortex. It is the area that is located at the front part of your toddler’s frontal lobe. Such a condition can mean your toddler may have difficulty in his verbal intelligence.

3. Sleep disruption

Screen time, especially when it occurs within one hour of bedtime can lead to overstimulation and prevent babies and young children from falling asleep and getting enough sleep.

4. Obesity

Children who overuse media during the preschool years are at risk of weight gain and obesity. Watching TV or other media viewing can displace physical activity and active play, while exposure to food advertising and snacking while watching TV may also be contributing factors. A 2014 study found an increase in Body Mass Index for every additional hour of screen time for toddlers per week.

5. Social and emotional development

Obesity.

Babies learn to socialise by connecting face to face with their parents, but distracting digital screens can get in the way of that connection. One study found that when a TV was on in the background, parents were less likely to interact with their children.

Two other studies observed that the more a parent was absorbed in her mobile device, the less she engaged with her children. There are also concerns that screens can lead to shorter attention spans and behavioural issues.

6. Learning with a teacher becomes difficult

If your toddler gets used to watching educational shows on TV, it can clash with the way he learns from a real teacher. The shows your toddler watches on TV are always fast-paced and filled with animation. Once your toddler gets used to learning through these shows, he will find it difficult to concentrate on regular teaching techniques in the classroom.

7. Increases blood pressure

If your toddler is exposed to TV viewing, it can harm his blood pressure by increasing the levels. According to an International Journal of Cardiology study, watching too much TV between the ages of two until 10 years of age can put your toddler at a 30 per cent higher risk of blood pressure. Combined with lesser physical activity, it can further increase the risk factor by 50 per cent.

8. Violent

Children who view violent acts on TV are more likely to show aggressive behaviour. Because of the number of violent acts a child may see, there is a result of the mental problem called ‘copycat phenomenon. Copycat Phenomenon defines as imitating or copying the act or behaviour of a person from a particular show. An example of this is if a child sees on televisio, a person who acts to be violent; there is a possibility to imitate its action.

9. Mental problem

Excessive screen time has been linked to a range of mental health conditions in children. This includes (but is not limited to) depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, and bipolar disorder.

10. Vision issues

The more time children spend looking at screens, the higher the chance of developing various types of eye and vision-related problems. Dry-eye disease has become a more common issue eye doctors screen for in children during eye exams, as frequent viewing of screens changes our rate of blinking. This can lead to chronic dry eyes and difficulty tolerating contact lenses.

The strain of constantly using near-point vision on electronic devices is, especially problematic for children, many of whom are becoming nearsighted as a result. Children may also develop problems shifting their vision from near to far, and integrating their vision and motor skills.

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