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Effects of screen time on children and recommended guidelines for screen time – Times of India

With children getting smartphones at a very early age, while also having access to TVs, tablets, video games and other technology in the home, they’re getting a lot more daily screen time than previous generations. While digital devices offer educational and entertainment opportunities, excessive screen time can have significant effects on children’s physical and mental well-being.
Extended screen time has been linked to a sedentary lifestyle including prolonged periods of sitting and reduced physical activity, contributing to obesity and poor posture in children.Additionally, constant screen exposure may contribute to digital eye strain, headaches, and disruptions in sleep patterns, impacting overall physical health.
Speech, language, and communication constitute pivotal aspects of early childhood development. Face-to-face interactions with adults and peers play a crucial role in fostering language skills, emotional regulation, and social aptitude. Excessive screen usage in the formative years could hinder the acquisition of these essential skills, potentially leading to difficulties in communication and emotional comprehension.Behavioral and mental health effects are also associated with screen time. Children exposed to excessive violent or inappropriate content may exhibit aggressive behavior and desensitization. Furthermore, extended screen time, particularly before bedtime, is linked to sleep disturbances, affecting mood, attention, and overall mental health. The constant stimulation from screens can contribute to attention difficulties and reduced impulse control.
To tackle these concerns, the Indian Academy of Paediatrics has issued guidelines for screen time in children. Those below 2 years old should not be exposed to any screen, except for occasional video calls with relatives. Children aged 2 to 5 years should limit screen time to one hour, with less being preferable. For those 6 years and older, consistent limits on the amount and type of media consumed are recommended.

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Few tips for parents and caregivers

  • Prioritize educational content suitable for child’s age and developmental stage when permitting screen time
  • Establish screen-free zones and time. E.g: Bedrooms and dining area can be screen-free zones and set screen free times during meals and at least one hour before bed time
  • Balance screen time with physical activity. Children should engage in at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
  • Practice active co-viewing and communication with children when they engage with screens. Discuss content and help them understand the content that they are viewing. This approach promotes critical thinking and allows meaningful conversation

(Author: Dr. Ayushi Shukla, Consultant – Psychiatry, SRV Hospitals – Dombivli)

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