Is Screen Time Rewiring Our Kids’ Brains?

Is Screen Time Rewiring Our Kids’ Brains?

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digital media tips for parents

Digital devices are everywhere around us, whether we like it or not. The increased use of technology has been a topic of debate for years. It helps us stay connected with family, friends and the outer world, breaking all the physical barriers. Digital screens are a vast source of knowledge that helps students grow professionally, mentally, emotionally and socially.

However, it also has detrimental impacts on different aspects of a child’s growth and development. Screen time for children has exploded over the past 10 years, due to the portability of the screens that allows students to take them everywhere and use them excessively. Studies show that excessive screen time is linked with the inability of students to pay attention and think clearly. There are some other negative impacts of screen time as well.

Impact on brain

Studies show that kids who have a higher level of screen time at 2-3 years old poorly achieve developmental milestones at the age of 4-5. Higher use of screen-based media can lead to white matter changes in the brain that negatively affect language and literacy skills in young children.

According to the National Institute of Health, more than 7 hours of digital screening shows thinning of the brain’s cortex. This impacts their critical thinking and reasoning skills. According to another research, brain scans of screen-addicted children show shrunken gray matter affecting critical processes like empathy, organizing and impulse control.

Impact on mental well-being

Screen time can cause mental health problems for children. Nowadays, school children are at a higher risk as they spend more time on social media. The comparison children make with others on these platforms can make them develop anxiety, low self-esteem and sometimes depression. Also, exposing them to abusive content like violent games, videos and movies can influence aggressive behavior among kids.

Risk of ADHD

Teens who use digital media frequently are more likely to develop symptoms of ADHD. Though ADHD is a disorder that typically shows up in the elementary school years, this study shows that teens without a history of ADHD symptoms can start to exhibit these symptoms as a result of increased use of devices

Also Read: 6 ways to keep students and teachers motivated and happy as they get back to schools

Impact on sleep

Good sleep is a key factor in brain development. Researchers showed that screen devices like smartphones emit blue light that can disrupt sleep patterns if used for a long time before bed. They can suppress the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep cycles. Also, teens who stay awake late at night watching videos and texting miss out on REM sleep, which is essential for processing and storing information. As a result, they may forget what they learned in class even if they are awake.

Impact on behaviour and emotional development 

Nowadays, children are more engaged with screens than with themselves or others. This can affect their emotional development and understanding. Increased screen time reduces face-to-face interaction, which is important for learning social skills and empathy. 

Also, watching violent shows on the internet can make them less sensitive to others’ feelings and more likely to generalize violence. Research shows that children who spent more time using devices and watching television at age 4 had lower levels of emotional understanding and social skills.

Impact on physical well-being

Children today spend more time playing on screens than on playgrounds. This reduces their physical activity and affects their motor skills. Research has shown that preschoolers who spend more time on screens have worse manual dexterity skills than those who don’t. Excessive use of digital devices also leads to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity problems. Research has shown that increased screen time raises the risk of being obese or overweight in children. This can cause health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Impact on academic outcomes

Excessive use of digital screens affects concentration. Children who are addicted to screen entertainment find it hard to read books that require understanding, meaning, and critical thinking. Screen time affects these abilities and reduces interest and comprehension in reading. Screen time also affects the brain cortex, which is involved in perception, thought, memory, language, attention, and consciousness. The National Institute of Health found that children who spend more than two hours a day on screens score lower in language and thinking tests

Parents’ use of digital screens also matters as it influences children’s development, behavior, and relationships. Research has shown that parents who use screens excessively are more likely to have children with problematic behavior. Adults’ overuse of screens also affects children’s screen use as they tend to imitate their parents.

The impact of screen time on children’s brains and development can last into adulthood. Therefore, parents need to be aware of the risks and help children develop healthy digital habits that support their growth in all areas.

Here are some digital media tips for parents:

  1. Kids may not make the best choices about what to watch on the internet. Parents can watch with them and encourage them to interact with the content, such as singing songs and asking questions about what they see. 
  2. Parents should set a daily limit for screen time for their kids. 
  3. They should avoid screens before bedtime and during meals. 
  4. Parents and teachers should guide students on how to use screen time wisely and which activities and programs can help them with their development.

Screen time is a part of our modern life, but it can have significant effects on children’s brains and development. Screen time can affect sleep quality, emotional and social skills, physical well-being, and academic outcomes. Parents and teachers need to be aware of these risks and help children use screen time in a balanced and healthy way. They can also monitor and limit screen time, watch with their kids, and guide them to choose appropriate and educational content. By doing so, they can support children’s growth and learning in all areas.

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