Technology use by children has become somewhat of a debate in recent years. Cell phone use and games are becoming prevalent as devices become more available, this debate is not going away. At Capital Pediatric we have noticed and want to be sure our family is happy and healthy in mind as well as body.
While the jury is still out on exactly what effect technology may have on children, there are some points of consideration. Last year, Bill Gates made headlines when he stated he prefers to limit screen time for his children. Gates admitted he limits his children’s screen time, it then came out that several others did the same. Steve Jobs had similar rules. Mark Zuckerberg wrote a message to his children to spend more time exploring the world and less behind a computer. When the builders of our world do not want to expose their family to their creations, we should take note.
Why are we worried about this technology? The primary concern is what we call 'screen time'. Children show in studies not to be able to process time spent in front of a screen, whether it be a cell phone, tablet, computer or television. Screen time is not all bad, but excessive screen time can be dangerous. Studies have shown that too much screen time can damage eyes. Yet, that is the least of the worries in comparison to the psychological effects. A child exposed to too much screen time can affect performance in school, concentration and depression. Years of compounded excessive screen time links to severe depression in adults.
There is no need to be concerned if your child is using computers or cell phones for entertainment; the key is moderation. Cell phone addiction is possible. The signs of screen time addiction are like other bad habits. If the child is obsessive about devices, using them or begging for them often. If they are always talking about them when not using them. Lack of concentration with devices around, depression and lack of motivation when not using the device are all signs of addiction. This is not to say that talking about a device or game is wrong. If the child can not go 30 minutes without speaking about a device for hours at a time, there may be a problem.
What you can do to prevent a problem:
-Limit screen time
My house has a 30-30-30 plan; we give the children 30 minutes each of tablet, computer and television time. They have every right to 'cap and trade' with other devices. For example, my son will watch two episodes of Power Rangers for 40 minutes before moving on to the tablet for 20 minutes.
-Split up time
After finishing one device, it is break time, meal time, or it is time to do something else like playing outside or read a book before moving on to the next.
-No use an hour before bedtime
This is a good thing to do regardless because screen time excites the brain and will leave them in an agitated state at bedtime. It is good to have children play or read in the time before bed, calming the mind and making sleep faster.
-Taking away time
While it is not a good idea to use such things as a reward for good behavior, taking it away for bad behavior is healthy for the child.
These tips will help you raise a healthy child. Pay attention to warning signs. If you have any questions, remember you can always give the doctors here at Capital Pediatric a call for helpful advice.