Why Parents Should Make Screen-Time Limits a Priority.
The amount of screen time in the United States has been increasing over the past five years. Data from a recent survey by the Nielsen Company, postulates that the average screen time in the United States is 10 hours and 39 minutes. This includes time spent on computers, smartphones, tablets, televisions and video games. The number of accessible devices that individuals have, has also been increasing. In reference to the Nielsen report, over the past two years, there has been an hour increase in the amount of screen time individuals partake in.
Negative Impact on Children
Data shows that exposing young children to excessive screen time has adverse effects on their development. Children who spend most of their time before television and computer screens, depict poor performance on developmental measures. There is a lasting influence, especially if the child is less than 5 years old. Excessive screen time limits the child from developing effective cognitive and psychomotor skills. Therefore, it is essential to limit screen time for children as they are developing connections in their brains from the diverse stimuli in their environments. Excessive screen time limits children from exploring useful opportunities for cognitive growth and psychomotor development as it impedes a child from engaging in vital activities such as talking, walking and interacting with others.
In today’s modern society, children have easy access to numerous electronic devices. Unlimited screen time, however, has several adverse effects among children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents place a reasonable screen limit time for their kids. Despite such guidelines, most children in the United States have an average screen time of eight hours each day. Excessive screen time is among the main causative factors of lifestyle ailments such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular complications among children. Essentially, excessive screen time impedes children from engaging in physical fitness activities leading to the emergence of diverse lifestyle ailments. Excessive screen time has also been attributed to the rise of sleep problems among children. This is because screens emit blue light that interferes with the brain’s sleep cycle, leading to insomnia.
Excessive screen time has the potential of causing behavior problems among children. A recent study reveals that elementary school children that use computers for more than two hours a day are highly susceptible to social, attention and emotional problems. It also revealed that elementary school children that have a television in their bedrooms tend to perform poorer compared to those without televisions in their bedrooms. Excessive screen time has been shown to lead to violent behaviors in children. Through exposure to violent television shows, music and movies, children are likely to become desensitized. This may increase their preference for the utilization of violence to solve emerging social problems with their peers, teachers, parents and members of their community.
Negative Effects on Parenting
Excessive screen time has numerous adverse effects on an individual’s parenting abilities. Findings from a recent study by the University of Texas reveals that children tend to imitate their parents’ behavior. Excessive screen time interferes with a parent’s ability to offer attention to their child. This is a significant challenge toward the formation of a healthy child-parent relationship. Parents that spend excess time on their screens are less aware and responsive to their children’s needs. Poor parenting due to excessive screen time can trigger the emergence of negative behaviors such as negative attention-seeking, withdrawal and violence among their children. This can lead to children misbehaving within their learning institutions and succumbing to negative peer pressure to gain their parent’s attention. Excessive screen time hinders parents from making frequent follow-ups on their children’s behavior at home, school and within their community. Children that receive minimal attention from their parents are more likely to drop out of school, engage in drug and substance abuse, and become members of gangs. The inability of parents to address negative behavior among children at an early stage increases their susceptibility to engaging in criminal activities.
Excessive screen time among parents is likely to trigger the emergence of power struggles and family conflicts. Family members are likely to witness arguments, yelling, manipulation, rule-breaking and defiance around screen time. Power struggles around screen time impede the formation of collaborative relationships between members of the family. The increase of power struggles and marital conflicts around screen time are likely to trigger high levels of hopelessness and frustration among family members. This may lead to situations where parents unjustly punish their children to reduce their anger.
Effects on Health
Among adults, excessive screen time has the potential of causing shrinkage of the brain’s gray matter, that is responsible for processing thoughts and ideas. Excessive screen time is also likely to damage the insula, the part of the brain that is responsible for empathy and compassion. In addition to triggering impaired cognitive functioning, excessive screen time has the potential of reducing the number of dopamine receptors. This triggers the emergence of mental challenges such as depression and anxiety. These negative consequences are likely to increase a parent’s volatility against their children and can lead to incidences of child abuse.
Children require healthy diets to facilitate psychomotor and cognitive development. Parents need to dedicate adequate time for the preparation of meals. Excessive screen time hinders parents from focusing on tasks such as cleaning and meal preparation. This may result in the consumption of minimal amounts of fiber, large amounts of fast food that contain high amounts of salt and fat, and processed foods that have low levels of nutrients. This increases their children’s susceptibility to contracting lifestyle ailments. Poor dietary habits further impede their children’s growth.
Evaluation of Excessive Screen Time on Kids and Parenting Effects on Kids
Excessive screen time has numerous negative consequences on both parents and children. Among children, the habit impedes their concentration and memory abilities. A sedentary lifestyle due to excessive screen time also increases the children’s susceptibility to chronic ailments like obesity and cardiovascular complications. Based on this analysis, excessive screen time among parents impedes their ability to form collaborative relationships with their children. It also hinders them from identifying and addressing emerging negative behavior among children.
Anthony Cupo is a trained mindfulness facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years. Our article is also published in ParentingOC’s Magazine!