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Screen time and how it affects your child’s development

Over the years we have seen a lot of development with regard to technology and the ways in which it has affected us all. While childhood has often been a time in which we found ourselves playing outdoor games, skinning knees, exploring nature; there has been a drastic change in the way in which children nowadays embrace their childhood.

We find children of every age, spending hours in front of phones, tablets, television, laptops, etc. While this may not always be a bad thing; some educational apps and channels can help children get sharper and more focused. But a number of studies have shown delayed cognitive development in kids with extended exposure to electronic media.
Often parents jump into giving children screens to play with, as a way to escape a tantrum or to distract them and to avoid their absence; this hampers the child’s opportunity to develop several abilities like interaction, communication, concentration.

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. All these innovative gadgets are in fact simple shortcuts that can handle multiple actions simultaneously and do the thinking for kids, which something the developing brain does not require.

Some consequences of prolonged use of screen gadgets:
Hampers social interactions: The essence of interacting with a significant other doesn’t just involve the use of vocabulary but learning how to read several unspoken words- body language, voice tone, facial expressions, etc. This usually develops during the crucial period of young children; when they interact with other humans may it be a teacher, friends or parents itself. And if you’re young one is spending loads of hours in front of those lighted screens rather than interacting with other children, his empathetic abilities and non-verbal cues will be stunted for the rest of his/her life.
Affects physical and mental health: The hours spent on gadgets restricts your child from engaging in other physical activities, leaving them unfit and lazy. It also gets your child hooked on to those fascinating screens and leads to them creating their own world; leading to withdrawal, lower self esteem and poor academic achievements.

Some ways in which you can limit screen exposure and increase interactive play:
 Get your young child involved in household chores and let it be a learning opportunity. You can get them small brooms so they can sweep one part of the room while you sweep another, and you can teach them the names and colors of vegetables while you are cooking.
 Make it a compulsion to eat dinner together and ask your child about his or her day. If it is a very young child, you can remind him of all the things he did that day, asking a few simple questions, such as what he liked best about the day.
 If your child is going to watch something, watch it with her and ask questions about what she is watching. This can help switch watching television from something entertaining to a learning experience; using skills like reasoning and understanding.
 Give your young child simple toys and household objects that aren’t automatic (if the toy needs batteries, save it for when the child is older). The more the toy does, the less your child will do. Engaging in pretend play helps children develop understanding and other cognitive abilities.
References:

Anderson, D.R. & Pempek, T.A. ( 2005). Television and very young children. American Behavioral Scientist.Schmidt, M.E., Pempek, T.A., Kirkorian, H.L., Lund, A.F., Anderson, D.R. (2008). The effects of background television on the toy play behavior of very young children. Child Development.
Early Childhood Funders. (2007). Play in the early years: Key to school success, a policy brief. Retrieved from: http://earlychildhoodfunders.org/pdf/play07.pdf
Effects of media retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/11/03/teens-spend-nearly-nine-hours-every-day-consuming-media

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