How Screentime Affects Children
Well, assuming you have already understood from the title that nothing beneficial is going to be highlighted in this article, we can state it right here: screentime has a wide range of effects on a child’s health, and while computers and devices can be used for educational purposes, in most cases it leads to more problems. Here they are.
Children hunched over their tablets for hours on end are now a norm, and a child riding a bike or–do you still remember what it is like?–flying a kite is nothing short of a miracle. As children stopped going outdoors to spend time with friends or do their normal child business, like catching frogs or climbing trees, they have now diverged from the traditional way of growing up.
Digitalization of childhood takes its toll on their health, both mental and physical. Admittedly, their technical prowess is going to be much better than that of people who grew up playing with traditional toys, but the price of this skill may prove to be too high.
Screentime interferes with normal sleep
The light emitted by screens prevents the body from producing melatonin the way it should, thus making deep sleep impossible. Blue light is to blame for sleepless nights following evening screentime: sleep problems among children are on the rise, and the culprit is apparently electronics.
Being wired and tired, children also fail to fall asleep due to excessive exposure to social networks, games and other things and activities that result in high arousal. Poor sleep has been linked to a wide range of health problems, from diabetes to higher mortality, so bedtime screentime is one of the most dangerous forms of it.
Screentime interferes with normal functioning of the rewarding system in the brain
Playing games and doing other entertaining activities using electronic devices induces release of dopamine. The hormone is part of the so-called rewarding system, and if the pathways related to it are used too often, it leads to something of an tolerance to dopamine – the dose that used to be effective before is no longer so, and you need more to achieve the same effect, similar to how it happens in case of addiction.
Besides this system, the chemical is also used in processes associated with motivation and focus, so these aspects can also be affected by screentime.
Screentime reduces the amount of time spent on physical activities
It is quite obvious, but spending more time staring at the screen of your device means you move less. Instead of playing with peers, children prefer to play using their tablets, smartphones or PCs. As a result, they put on weight, lose muscle mass, and fail to stay outdoors long enough for the body to produce vitamin D.
It is OK for a child to use electronics occasionally, but constant exposure to them definitely raises the risk of developing certain diseases, and anxiety and depression may also follow, as the sensory system becomes overloaded, and stress is induced, be it games or surfing the web.
Everything said above boils down to the conclusion that exposure to electronic devices should be moderate: prohibiting use of devices is not the best idea, as it is likely to result in lack of trust and envy (their peers are usually allowed to peer at the screen whenever they want). However, if your child exhibits signs of being affected by screentime, you should interfere and limit the amount of time they can spend in the digital world. Some short-term electronic fast can help “reset” their mind and replenish its resources which were depleted by screentime.
Wired and Tired: Electronics and Sleep Disturbance in Children – Psychologytoday.com