September 15, 2020 / By thadmin2
Over the last century, electronic devices and different forms of technology have slowly started to fill our lives. Screens have not only become a form of entertainment, but also a form of education and communication. It is not uncommon these days to see young children in restaurants or at malls, clutching onto their iPad or tablet, fixated on some new game or video clip. Findings from a local study, conducted by researchers from the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) and the National University of Singapore (NUS), suggest that toddlers who use screens more than three hours a day could grow up to display sedentary behaviour. The study also showed early exposure to digital devices could exacerbate emotional and behavioral difficulties, and affect the amount and quality of sleep among preschool children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), such as autism. In the long run, these sleep interferences could also contribute to other concerns such as hyperactivity, low mood and inability to focus.
In addition, a study done by researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada investigated the impact of parenting practices on the amount of time young children spent in front of screens and made several findings. First, researchers found that children whose parents use screen time as a reward or revoke it as punishment spend more time on a smartphone, tablet or computer or in front of the television than children whose parents don’t. Second, the study found that if parents spent time in front of a screen when around their children, the children also had higher amounts of screen time. This result was more pronounced when the mother was the one spending time in front of a screen. Lastly, the study also found mealtime screen use for parents was another factor that resulted in children spending more time in front of a screen-based device.
While screens and technology have brought boundless knowledge and convenience to our fingertips, it is important to be wary of our screen time usage. Excessive time spent online has also been linked to increased feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression. It is essential, as a parent, to be mindful of your child’s screen time usage.
Recommendations for Parents and Caregivers
- Create screen-free zones
You may consider designating specific times of the day to be screen-free such as while doing homework, dinner time, or a set amount of time before bed. Alternatively, you might also consider making a screen-free zone a physical space in your home. When setting such limits, it is important to be realistic and set attainable limits that are developmentally appropriate for your child and the stage they are at in their lives. Limits can defer depending on holidays or even just weekends and weekdays, however it is important to set strict limits and discuss it with your child to ensure they understand and abide by it.
- Create a routine that places an emphasis on physical activity and peer bonding
Children benefit greatly from structure and discipline, even though they tend to complain about it. It is important to present alternative activities for your child to fill their free time with, rather than leaving them with an electronic device. This is also a great way to promote exercise and healthy real-life peer interaction. A good place to start would be to enroll your child in an activity or sport that they enjoy and cultivate a strong habit of staying active.
- Discuss online safety
It is important to have a conversation with your child to discuss the possible consequences of being online, such as cyber bullying, sexual predators and internet scams. Communication is key to ensure your child feels comfortable coming to you for help, should he or she be faced with an uncomfortable or dangerous situation online. The online environment can be cold and dangerous for children and parents cannot always keep track of what applications or websites the child is exposed to while online.
- Use parental control functions
Another great way to safeguard your child’s online usage is by activating the parental control functions that many applications include now. It allows a parent to block certain content that might be developmentally inappropriate for the child and assists the parent in regulating their child’s online media consumption. Popular applications such as Netflix have such features available in their settings.
Here at Thrive Psychology clinic, we offer various services that can target common problems found in today’s children and youth. Our goal is to get an accurate read on your child’s experiences so that we can put together a comprehensive treatment plan that targets their unique needs. We are committed to helping children and adolescents thrive. If you would like to find out more about behavioural treatments or would like to arrange for a consultation, do contact us and we would be happy to assist you!
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Help! How Do I Limit Screen Time for My Children? (2020, June 22). Retrieved September 14, 2020, from https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1964/my-child-is-glued-to-the-screen
KKH study finds links between early screen exposure, sleep disruption and emotional, behavioural difficulties in children. (2019, November 12). Retrieved September 14, 2020, from https://www.kkh.com.sg/news/research/kkh-study-finds-links-between-early-screen-exposure-sleep-disruption-and-emotional-behavioural-difficulties-in-children
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Madigan S, Browne D, Racine N, Mori C, Tough S. Association Between Screen Time and Children’s Performance on a Developmental Screening Test. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(3):244–250. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.5056
Maidenberg, E. (2019, December 01). Managing Your Child’s Screen Time. Retrieved September 14, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/belief-and-the-brain/201912/managing-your-child-s-screen-time
Tang, L., Darlington, G., Ma, D.W.L. et al. Mothers’ and fathers’ media parenting practices associated with young children’s screen-time: a cross-sectional study. BMC Obes 5, 37 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40608-018-0214-4
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van den Heuvel, M., Ma, J., Borkhoff, C. M., Koroshegyi, C., Dai, D., Parkin, P. C., Maguire, J. L., Birken, C. S., & TARGet Kids! Collaboration (2019). Mobile Media Device Use is Associated with Expressive Language Delay in 18-Month-Old Children. Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP, 40(2), 99–104. https://doi.org/10.1097/DBP.0000000000000630