Screen Time for Youth- How much is too much?

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The youth nowadays is simply hooked on to watching or playing with electronic media – from televisions to video games, computers and other devices. Hence, it is quite natural that parents will wonder about the actual time their children spend looking at a some or the other screen. “Screen time” per se is when they talk about any time spent in front of an electronic device with a monitor or display.

So far, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggested that children and teenagers should have no more than two hours of screen time a day to avoid the several ill effects it may cause. This advice has now been modified. As of October 2016, the academy members agreed on a policy called “Media and Young Minds.” In this, they listed a number of suggestions for parents and child care specialists with regards to this agenda.

Have a look at these recommendations.

  • “Avoid digital media use (except video-chatting) in children younger than 18 to 24 months.”
  • For children ages 18 to 24 months, choose high definition media files. The Child must not watch media alone. And it should not be used as a way to calm the child.
  • For kids between two to five years of age, limit screen time to one hour of “high-quality programs” a day and watch it with your child.
  • For ages 6 and older, limit time spent watching or playing on electronic devices to make sure screen time does not hamper healthy sleep, physical activity and other behaviors which facilitate good health.
  • Make sure to spend peaceful times together as a family, such as dinner or driving which are devoid of any media usage. Do make some areas of the home electronic-less. It should be a rule to turn off your child’s devices an hour before bedtime.
  • They also suggest that doctors educate parents about young brain development and the importance of hands-on activities and one on one play that builds linguistics, thought process and interactive skills. Parents should make sure to balance a child’s screen time with other activities, such as getting good sleep, exercising and doing homework or daily chores.

Christopher Ferguson, a psychology tutor at Stetson University in the American state of Florida stated that there’s a lack of evidence supporting reports to prove the fact that too many hours spent playing video games or watching TV is truly harmful. Albeit, it’s noteworthy that many people still believe that too much screen time is bad.

Some parents actually believe that the more the time children spend with screens, the lesser the time they’re spending with academics, and thus the more they’re getting exposed to all kinds of anti-social or objectionable messages that we would not like our kids to watch. So, if a child spends 6 hours a day watching or playing on devices, it means that this much time is lost which could otherwise have been utilised in doing other things, like reading, enjoying a sport, or honing a talent.

The UK study found a minute negative effect, about a one percent increase in angry and depressive behaviour among children who would spend 6 or more hours of watching or playing on screen each a day.

Ferguson and a team of investigators conducted a similar study on risky behaviors on exposure of too much media which involved about 6,000 boys and girls in Florida. Their average age was 16. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the questionnaire. Data from the survey found that among those who played video games, watched TV or worked on the computer up to six hours a day showed small increase in delinquency of half of one percent, 1.7 percent increase in signs of depression, and 1.2 percent negative effect on school grades. No other risky behaviours were noted to have been influenced by media. This research was published in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly.

The American Psychology Association also conducted a study on the similar lines to look at a possible link between video games and violence. The group issued a statement in August of 2015 saying it found that violent video games did cause aggressive behavior in the player, although there is inadequate evidence to prove that this could lead to delinquency. Logically though, it is obvious that the strain caused by continuous staring at electronic monitors on the eyes is definitely going to be detrimental in the long run. Also, some researchers also found that the radiation from these devices do have bad effects in proportion to the exposure.

Despite the fact that electronic devices are an inseparable part of our daily lives, as they are utilised for the purpose of school work to personal usage, the youth should understand that moderation is the key. Therefore, parents should not feel pressured to introduce technology early. Electronic interfaces have definitely eased ways to learn and be constructive for the youth. But this has also opened arenas for misuse and mental manipulation, of which some may even be deliberate. The pivotal role here should be played by the guardians of the wards in order to catch or moderate any potential unfortunate events that ensue, atleast until further data is universally established.

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Dr. Aafreen Kotadiya
Aafreen is a young and energetic MD specialized in Immuno-hematology and Transfusion Medicine. Besides being from amongst the top performers since her med school days, she remains a humble and charitable human and Editor-in-chief at the Times of Youth.

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