My childhood days were mostly spent outdoors at the park. I would run around with the other kids, tumble in the dirt, and adventure around our made-up kingdom; aka the playground. However, over the years, the way I spend my leisure time has changed. This is in part due to the rapid advancement of technology. From cells phones to laptops, it is right in our hands, occupying our attention while simplifying our work.
Technology also provides leisure for our children. Tablets have become quite a popular gadget among our kids. Their lightweight and large screens allow children to hold a whole new world of internet and apps at their fingertips. Furthermore, devices such as chromebooks are being integrated into schools as part of classroom teaching methods. However, how much time should children spend in front of a bright screen? And what effects does it have on them?
The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that the time in front of a screen should be limited, with children under the age of two receiving no screen time at all. The recommended time is no more than about two hours a day. However, a study conducted at the University of Washington found that about 66% of children under the age of five exceed that limitation by spending an average of about four hours a day. Overall, research has found that the increased use of technology has led to an increase of ill-being, even when accounting for a poor diet and low physical activity.
Physiologically, the increase in electronic usage has been linked to an increase in body mass index. Being overweight has been correlated to depression, especially in females, with increased weight leading to unhappiness with appearance or bullying. Additional negative impacts of excessive screen use during childhood include an association with lower cardiorespiratory fitness and raised serum cholesterol by their mid-twenties. A longitudinal study observed individuals, aged 10-15 years old, who watched a screen for more than four hours a day. The researchers found that they were five times more likely to smoke. Another New Zealand study also demonstrated that increased television usage was related to increased cigarette smoking during adulthood.
According to a study done in Australia, increased electronic usage has been linked to not only physical health issues, such as increased obesity and poor sleeping habits, but also maladaptive mental and social health. Children adhering to these trends have found to be more isolated and suffer depression or depressive symptoms. They were also found to experience problems in attention, learning, and behavior. Additionally, these individuals suffering from attention and concentration problems also had reduced creative imagination and creative play. Another longitudinal study followed families during their first year in implementing the internet. Within that first year, the children experienced increased loneliness and a decrease in mood.
Overall, our children’s utilization of technology is inevitable. Electronic devices provide education as well as leisure for our children. However, too much screen time can have negative impacts on their physiological and psychological well being. These adverse effects can lead to disruptions in child development and mental health. Thus, limiting the use of it is vital. Instead, children should be taken outdoors more often where they can enjoy their natural environments and be exposed to more Vitamin D. They may also seek physical activity, fresh air, and perhaps explore an imaginative kingdom of their own.
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