Children copy! They especially copy their parents – and as they grow older, they also copy some of their peers. That’s a normal part of childhood.
Technology use has ramped up and now we can do everything on our phones: read articles; watch the news, movies and TV shows; message people in seconds; share photos and files; do business deals, etc. The children are seeing everyone glued to their phones, and many of them can’t wait to get their hands on your phone, or their own phone.
This makes sense, how can we tell them to not want something we are constantly using? They must be thinking: “It’s got to be so great if it keeps my mom/dad occupied so often.” It’s normal for them to think that, because that’s what’s happening; they are seeing loads of adults and older kids on phones or tablets.
According to the International Journal of Ophthalmology, “A survey of the impact of screen reading on schoolchildren’s visual acuity was recently conducted. The results show that screen reading can lead to the occurrence and development of poor eyesight in schoolchildren, and the higher incidence of near-sightedness correlates with the increase in the length of the screen reading time.”
The Blue Light
The blue light of screens in excess is dangerous for the eyes, especially developing eyes. We need to protect our children. “If blue light is excessive, especially at night when melatonin production peaks, it cannot only damage the retina through the ocular surface, but can also stimulate the brain, inhibit melatonin secretion, and increase corticosteroid production, thereby destroying hormonal secretion and directly affecting sleep quality.” Both eye damage and sleep quality will occur!
What’s on the screen? Are you constantly monitoring when your child is looking at a screen? What shows are they watching? What are they learning? Cartoons can look innocent at first, but quite a few of them online can be traumatizing or teaching the opposite of what is healthy for a kid to learn.
There are many cartoons or children shows that look harmless but teach them how to bully, or enjoy bullying others, or to do really unacceptable things. Please vet your children’s shows and if possible download a children’s filter. YouTube has a setting for children’s content. You can do more research about how to do this online.
This brings us to the most difficult part about this; it makes life really easy on all parents when, with their favourite show on the cell phone, they are able to cheer up a crying child, distract a naughty child, or keep little ones quiet while doing groceries or going out to a restaurant or any outdoors place.
Use the phone/tablet as a last resort. It’s better to have a chat with your child before going out. No matter how small they are, many of them can understand. And it’s okay to avoid certain situations altogether if you know it will be hard on the whole family or you can go out into the world and teach your child (through trial and error) how to behave in public, they have to learn eventually. The trick is doing it without the screens.
In the end, we have to ask ourselves, “What did our parents do?” On the one hand, we are lucky to have this technology where our children can learn faster and better than ever, but WHAT they are learning is very important for us to monitor.
We still have our parenting duties and must still be vigilant. Also, we need to limit their screen time no matter how great the content is, because there is the aspect of visual damage to their eyes we need to keep in mind.
It is recommended to limit screen time to one hour per day for children ages two to five, and to two hours per day as they grow older. The older they get, there can be a little more flexibility with the screen time, but try to keep it to a minimum.
One last recommendation is to do some further research online, as there is a lot of information on studies on how screen time affects you and your child’s health and wellbeing.
Some info taken from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, www.mayoclinic.org