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Dangers of parents making screens their ‘assistant parents’

Mum’s phone, dad’s phone, house manager’s phone, house tablet, laptops, smart televisions and game boys (devices). These are the devices raising some children in some homes today. When the adult is too busy to pay attention or is too exhausted to interact with kids and just wants a quick nap, the screens are the first go to assistants to keep the children occupied.

Kids no longer have time to be bored and tend to be overstimulated, partly because the adults in the house are turning them over to screens where they can watch cartoons and play games. However, excessive screen time can have various potential dangers and negative impacts on children’s well-being and development.

Here are some of the risks associated with excessive screen time:

First, spending excessive time in front of screens often leads to a sedentary lifestyle, leading to significantly reduced physical activity and contributing to a higher health risks. These include obesity, cardiovascular issues, muscular weakness and poor motor skills development.

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Secondly, extended screen time, particularly before bedtime, can disrupt children’s sleep patterns. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. Irregular sleep patterns can lead to fatigue, difficulty concentrating and behavioral problems.

Impaired social and emotional development is another risk parents expose their kids to with too much screen time. This can hinder the development of crucial social skills and emotional intelligence. Children may spend less time engaging in face-to-face interactions, making it harder for them to develop empathy, communication skills and the ability to interpret non-verbal cues.

Fourthly, prolonged screen time may affect attention span, memory and cognitive abilities in children. Research suggests that excessive screen exposure during critical developmental periods can negatively impact brain structure and function, potentially leading to difficulties in concentration, problem-solving, and academic performance. This is why some popular cartoons, such as Cocomelon, are currently being demonized because of how they interfere with kids’ attention span and overstimulates them.

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Increased screen time also exposes kids to the risk of cyberbullying, online predators, and inappropriate content. Engaging in unsupervised online activities can put children at risk of harassment, exploitation or exposure to harmful material, such as violence, porn or suicides, that may impact their mental and emotional well-being.

Last but not least, excessive screen time can contribute to the development of screen dependency or addiction. Children may become overly reliant on screens for entertainment or emotional regulation, leading to difficulties in self-control, decreased motivation for other activities and potential withdrawal symptoms when screen time is restricted.

It is important for parents and caregivers to set limits on screen time, encourage a balanced lifestyle, and promote alternative activities such as outdoor play, reading, creative pursuits and social interactions.

Monitoring and guiding children’s online activities, promoting healthy screen habits and fostering open communication are key in mitigating the potential dangers associated with excessive screen time.

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