How screen time impacts your child's growth.
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
Pic courtesy: Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash
Know the facts! Exposure to digital screens impacts infants and it's important for parents to keep their children away from screens.
Screen-based entertainment is like junk food for an infant's brain. Children learn to interact and communicate through facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language of those around, and this cannot happen via a screen as infants don’t really understand what’s happening there until the age of two. Until then, a screen is just a fascinating device of flashing images, exposure to which can negatively impact a child's language development, reading skills, and short term memory. Their attention spans dwindle, quality of sleep deteriorates and the sedentary nature of viewing hampers physical activity, which is an elixir for their growth and development. On the other hand, when infants engage in off-screen games, they develop their imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, communication skills and physical faculties.
Parents often justify or are misguided about the impact of screens like cellphones, i-pads, laptops and televisions on the children.
Most parents simply do not recognize the perils of exposing their children to screens, which have become the nannies of the digital age, and the most convenient and accessible way to engage a child in a superficial manner, leaving the parents with more time, and reducing the responsibility of constant physical engagement. Many parents are working, and don’t mind if the caretaker has the television on while taking care of the child, not realising how that exposure impacts their infant’s mind and thwarts healthy human interaction between the child and caretaker. Some parents feel that videos, educational and interactive content on devices are a great learning tool, which they can be, but just not at that age.
Here are some practical ways to ensure that your children spend no time or minimal time in front of screens.
The very first thing parents need to do is cultivate more screen hygiene for themselves and in their homes. One cannot have a TV flickering in the background and expect a child to not watch. It’s also important to avoid being on their devices constantly. Parents should create a separate TV viewing space or time zones where infants are not allowed. Caretakers should not be allowed to watch TV while with the child. Devices should not be used as a tool to placate the child while they are throwing a tantrum, eating, bored or in bed. They should not succumb to the temptation of handing over devices to infants, just because they need to keep them engaged for a little while. Finally, friends and family members should be told to strictly avoid giving your child any type of screen exposure.
Turn down the tech and amp up the reality.
Provide your child with as much human interaction as possible, as it helps develop their communication skills. Talk to them, play off-screen games with them, give them simple musical instruments, toys that make them create, or use their mind and body. Take them outdoors whenever you can and expose them to large doses of nature. Help them engage with other children, or have a gentle pet at home. Give them some time to play by themselves, it fuels their imagination. Most importantly, be patient, stay calm. Raising kids is tough business and the temptation to resort to a digital quick fix can be quite irresistible, but succumbing could leave your child with a lifetime of disadvantages. So choose well and wisely.
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