Just over a decade ago, fun time for children would have meant playing baseball with friends or going cycling in the local streets. Today, kids have fun time hunched on their beds, furiously playing video games or scrolling through their multiple social media accounts. According to behavioral experts, such a drastic change is having huge negative effects on the proper mental development of children.
A group of psychologists from the University of Calgary recently published a study in which they measured the effects of screen time on children. The study, which lasted for a period of about five years, observed their performance in basic skills at the age of 24, 36 and 60 months.
“Greater screen time at 24 months was associated with poorer performance on developmental screening tests at 36 months, and similarly, greater screen time at 36 months was associated with lower scores on developmental screening tests at 60 months. The obverse association was not observed,” according to the study.
When children were glued to screens, they were sedentary, never engaging in any creative or physical task. As a result, they failed to spend much time practicing gross motor skills like running and walking. This is believed to have caused a delay in the development of the kids.
“We also know that a lot of the positive stimulation that helps kids with their physical and cognitive development comes from interactions with caregivers… When they’re in front of their screens, these important parent-child interactions aren’t happening, and this can delay or derail children’s development,” Dr. Sheri Madigan, lead author of the study, said in a statement (University of Calgary).
Given that high screen times can potentially make children less intelligent than others, it becomes necessary to limit the use of smartphones and computers. Parents should set strict schedules that outline when and how long their children can use such devices. It is best to keep online exposure limited to 30 to 60 minutes per day, split into two or three sessions.
You can also set up binge days where children can watch their favorite video content uninterrupted for several hours. This will help balance the child’s need to be up-to-date with his or her favorite movies and TV shows. However, keep the binge days limited to one day per week. It is recommended that you make this family time and not an isolated activity where the child watches TV alone all day long.