The y of Screen Addiction

Behavioural Problem in Kids: Claims that technology has opened the doors for kids to digital learning and has encouraged its use in a constructive manner, that it has helped families and in fact, nations to come closer to each other is all proving to be a big farce. It is true that with the use of electronic media like smartphones and tablets along with internet is one of the best sources of entertainment and learning for kids today, but too much exposure or unlimited screen time is proving to be harmful for the young minds and body. It’s addictive and impacts the brain development in not so good ways.

However a very valid question that pops up is who is to be blamed for such addiction. Is it the parents and their ignorance that is leading to an all time high screen times of kids and adults alike or is it the army of neuroscientists, social and behavioural experts, psychology and technology wizards who are working day in and day out to make it more compelling and addictive to us. Is the whole system just consists of what all technology can do or are there people knitting it all back in, from the consumer behaviours that they capture on screen. Are the social, behavioural & psychological studies that have thus far been used to help in mental behavioural disorders and getting respite to the distressed are now being used to create drug like addiction to games, apps and technological advancements for business profits.

Whatever forces are behind our increased dependence on screens, one fact is well established that the whole gamut of devices everywhere around us is taking us to an unhealthy plain. For kids, it is all the more alarming because they are impacted by this addiction at a stage where their brain is still developing and hence it has a deeper and more arming effect on these young minds.

Today’s parents are indeed the first generation of parents that need to know how to handle this challenge – strike the right balance between reasonable screen time and limiting it.

Key behavioural problem in kids due to increased screen-time

  1. With children glued to the digital screen, their attachment levels with their parents and siblings are getting terribly dipped. Digital media here is creating a relationship gap between the child and his immediate educators and the most important elements of his well-being – his parents and family. Infants and toddlers learn and grow through touch, tone of the voice and visuals of his parents, elder siblings, caretakers, grandparents etc. But when he is exposed to the digital screen, the human actions and reactions are being replaced by the screen and hence his attachment with objects grows rather than people around. Which is why, as he grows, it becomes his natural habit to ignore calls from his parent; half of the time he doesn’t respond to people around. He also doesn’t know any other means to occupy himself or play with any other existing object or person. Even during conversations, he would be disengaged. The exchange of formal and informal knowledge and information from the parent to the child automatically gets hampered. Development of moral values, discipline, and common sense; the zeal to be part of a social interaction, picking up adult social skills; and the eagerness for a face-to-face dialogue, a person-to-person behaviour and relationship, attention span – all take a backseat.
  2. Unlimited screen time is also pushing our children away from understanding or reading other people’s emotions and feelings which is one of the most important Life Skill in kids. A recent study on the same topic by a group of experts at the University of California, Los Angeles found that when the target group of sixth graders did not use a digital medium like TV, phone or computer for five continuous days, they were able to understand the emotions of other people quite accurately as compared to a group who spent those five days glued to their smartphones and other digital devices.
  3. Obviously when the child is glued to the screen most of the times display time gets compromised. This leads to an opportunity loss of developing many life skills that the kids should be developing at this age through the medium of play. Read about Importance of play here. 
  4. The absence of sports because of the increased engagement with screens is one other thing that the child misses on. There are a variety of Life skills kids learn while being involved in team Sports. Read about it here.
  5. There are other downsides too. Increased exposure to the screen has also been linked to physical problems like obesity, hyperactivity, aggressive and violent behaviour and irregular sleep patterns.

However, everything said and done, we do have to accept that technology has amazing plus points. Internet is a resource that cannot be ignored or completely blocked off. Information and knowledge is available at the click of a finger thereby making it easy for students to enhance their academic and personal growth. Living in a fast-paced and technology oriented world, we cannot simply cut off our kids from media. Hence it is best to let out children become media literate in a media generated world but responsibly. In fact when the family, as a whole starts to get media literate and develop healthy media habits, it becomes easier to raise balance kids who get the best from both the worlds.

Limiting screen time in the house

  • It is essential to define clearly technology free-time and fix up strict daily and weekly schedules for screen time. Even the content needs to spelled out clearly by the parent and should be monitored regularly.
  • Zero screen time during meals especially when the entire family sits down together, once or twice a day, to eat and catch up with each other
  • Similarly zero screen time in the bedroom and in the car or while travelling.
  • For kids aged 3 years and below, ideal screen time should be zero
  • For kids between 3 to 18 years, entertainment screen time should be limited to a maximum 2 hours each day.
  • We all know that parents are role model for their kids. It is important to understand this paradigm and act accordingly. Limiting our screen time, not checking the phone during conversations or meals or family time, passes an effective message to our kids.
  • Replace the screen with other activities that could involve the entire family. Going out on a bike ride or practising his favourite sports could be good options.
  • Choose TV channels and media programs that are extension of your child’s interests and hobbies.

Happy Screen Times! Happy Play Times! And Happy Parenting!