Shock value works better than ‘I told you so’ format these days, so here is a shocking fact to start off with. Research shows that today 92.2% of 1-year-olds have already used a mobile device with some starting as early as 4 months. Do you hear yourself saying “So? my kid only watches educational or child-friendly content such as rhymes or cartoons”
The problem isn’t only about what the child is watching the primary problem is the physical effect of the screen on your child’s brain development. Between the ages of 0 to 5, a human being has the newest experiences. Each new experience gives it new knowledge as well as teaches a new skill. The brain cells and neurons are working at possibly the highest speed and ability during these initial years to understand all kinds of sights, sounds, tastes, and textures. They record and create a memory in the brain which then defines the personality of a grownup person.
The Physical Effects:
Recent research and study called ’60 Minutes’ by CBS while still is under process have revealed some stunning facts about the physical impact of screens among children between ages 2 to 10-year-old.
Excessive screen time, for example, say 5-7 hours a day can result in the thinning of the cortex or the outer most layer of the brain that processes information from the five senses. Ideally, this is something that happens only happens at later stages and is called the maturational process.
Another shocking revelation is that children who watch more than two hours of screens scored way below other children in thinking, short memory, retention and language tests.
By 18 months of age, a child’s brain can start associating between things they see on TV and in real life.
Children who spend too much time in front of a screen find it difficult to interact with other people and sometimes cannot make proper eye contact while talking.
Have you noticed that your child has trouble sleeping right after watching television or any other screen? Well, that is also an effect of the brain getting affected by screens.
How much screen time is ok?
Despite these ill effects of screen time, we must also acknowledge the fact that today’s generation is bound to see screens no matter how hard we try. While ‘no screen time’ is the ideal answer to the question ‘how much screen time?’ here are some guidelines that can help you create a better developmental environment for your child.
For children up to the age of 18 months, it recommended having absolutely no screen time.
For children between 18 months to 2 years of age, you can try to restrict the screen time to 30 minutes.
Between ages 2 to 5, the screen time cannot be more than 1 hour a day.
Not just the duration of screen time but it is also important to monitor the type of content you are allowing your child to watch. Between the ages of 0 to 5 years, the child is highly impressionable and watching content that has high levels of violent behavior, immoral stories, too much fantasy or even unreal facts is a NO-NO.
Try to show content that is age-relevant and also educational in nature. If your child is in playgroup or nursery then showing content that is also being taught in school will help in reinforcing what they are learning. This type of content could be nursery rhymes, educational cartoons, different art or dance forms or even something like nature series.
No Screen Time
A child’s first teachers are its own parents. Practicing what you preach is one of the best ways to tell your child what you expect of them. If you are constantly on your own mobile screen and expect your child to not do the same, then you are sending a wrong message to your child.
While at home, try to practice ‘no screen time’ for yourself. Keep your phone aside and spend that time playing or talking to your child. Engage with them through fun activities or games. If you are cooking then make your child a part of this exercise and give them small jobs to do to assist you.
Through the week it is difficult to ignore your phone but every once in a while or maybe even once a week you can have a day where you and your child give your eyes some rest from screens. Try making a Saturday or a Sunday a No Screen Day. This will do wonders to help you bond with your child and also get those chores done around the house. If you don’t have a busy day plan then you could even consider going out for the day without your phone.
It probably sounds like an impossible task to do, but if you go back to your childhood, you will probably come across a million memories where television was no part of it and smartphones probably didn’t even exist. How did you do it back then? Can you recreate a similar environment for your child? If yes, then you would’ve taken the first and most important step towards smart parenting.
In the end, I’ll leave you with a thought to reinforce what you have just read - If we are what we eat; then our brain is what it watches.