Our world has changed a lot in the last year or so. With things in the outside world, taking a backseat as the virtual world becomes more and more important in our lives. That is why it becomes increasingly difficult to draw a line with screen exposure. However, the ill-effects of longer screen time and long-term exposure to electronic devices remain a huge threat to children and adults alike.
To create a balance between work and play was relatively easier under normal circumstances. But now, when both our means to work and destress has become common ground, a conscious effort can go into making that distinction, especially with children.
Why is Excessive Screen Time a Problem?
Schools have moved online for the time being. While we should be blessing technology for giving us that sense of normalcy called “education” in these times, the involvement of screens doesn’t help our case much. Too much screen time can result in various health conditions and serious complications. However, getting your child to listen is actually much more of a task than you’d originally thought.
Try and look at things from their perspective. Children and teenagers have associated gadgets with playtime for years now. They use social media like Instagram, WhatsApp, and even YouTube, as a stress buster. Perhaps even a way to relax after a hectic day at school. What’s changed now is that these in-person educational activities have shifted online, only adding to their screen exposure. So while they think they’re working and that they deserve that two-hour movie after a five-hour study session, it’s only actually harming them in the long run.
That’s where you come in. There’s a lot of alternate ways to entertain yourself that don’t involve a seven-hour long screen usage. Excessive screen time or poor quality screen time can lead to unwanted complications in children such as:
1. Irregular Sleep Patterns
If your child is not experimenting insomnia, they are definitely experiencing irregular sleep patterns. Due to long term exposure to screens, the body’s natural clock goes into overdrive and messes up a delicately balanced sleep cycle. While productivity during the nighttime is completely okay, prolonged or shortened hours of sleep, a nocturnal lifestyle and persistent drowsiness during the day are indications towards a distraught internal clock. This can cause further serious health complications too.
2. Insomnia or Incomplete REM cycles
The Blue Light effect is a lesser-known phenomenon that is usually to blame for lack of sleep. Electronics emit an artificial blue light that can suppress the release of the sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. The more time teens spend with screens, especially in the evening, the more there is a delay in the body to produce melatonin and thus makes sleep a challenge.
3. Behavioral Problems
Continuous consumption of content can mold the young minds in ways we do not deem as socially acceptable. Excessive levels of aggression and behavioral issues have been observed in children who are exposed to screens longer than others. Research also indicates a severe drop in dopamine and serotonin levels in children who accustom themselves to continuous exposure to screens.
A disconnect from your immediate surroundings can cause irritability in children. The “sensory overload” causes children to have poor focus. The inability to concentrate on one particular aspect can cause bouts of irritability as the mind wavers too often. It requires constant stimulation for optimal performance. Exhaustion is easy to reach due to this continuous overload on the senses and the brain.
5. Loss of Social Skills
Social Media and screens can quickly become an addiction, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the virtual realm. It drains you emotionally due to the continuous consumption of data. Thus, it leaves little time for your family and friends. In times like these, when everyone needs social connect to feel relevant, it may feel much more emotionally satisfying to interact with the virtual world. But in the long run, one definitely loses out on the basic human interaction the mind needs to remain healthy.
6. Obesity and Weakness
Our muscles require constant and persistent movement to remain healthy and strong. Due to reduced physical activity, the body loses its muscle strength and ultimately results in aches and pains in the joints, weakness and lethargy and lack of physical strength. Screen exposure can turn an active body into a passive mess, as it is easy to lose control over time and skip the required physical exercise.
One of the most common ways of developing a killer headache is by overexertion of the eyes and the eye muscles. The white light and the glare our eyes receive from the various screens we surround ourselves with can be detrimental to our eye health. It can cause an excessive strain on the eye muscles and ultimately weaken them permanently.
Alternatives for Screen Usage
It is practically impossible to conduct classes and continue with your child’s education without looking towards screens and technology for help. But it is possible to reduce their exposure considerably. There are specific methods to adopt that can make the situation a little better and improve your child’s interactions with an artificial screen:
- Instead of looking towards eliminating screen exposure, look towards regulating screen exposure.
- Though the total hours of screen exposure are important to count, know that constant scolding will only worsen the situation. Try and use a diplomatic approach instead and reason out rather than enforce.
- Taking breaks from your screen is necessary. Make sure your child has a substantial amount of hours in between periods of screen usage to give rest to their strained eye muscles and mind.
- Encourage alternate means of entertainment like reading, physical activity that can be enjoyed indoors, or artistic activities too.
- Practice not preach. Parents tend to try and regulate their children while mindlessly making the same errors themselves. It is now true that people of all age groups are getting more and more addicted to screens. You must remember that a child is less prone to listen and abide rather than watching and adapting.
- Reduction of your own screen exposure is the first step. From then on, it is guaranteed that your child will watch and learn, rather than mindlessly do as you say.
Technology has been here for a long time now, and it is here to stay. Like all things, it can be a double-edged sword, having lots of harmful effects along with a bunch of benefits. This is something we must learn to adapt to, rather than complain about. The best way to go about this change is to make a conscious effort to appreciate and enjoy the real world rather than live in that which you access virtually. Learn to appreciate the little things in life and be patient with yourself. As with everything, there is a learning curve involved and let yourself progress on it in your own time. And most of all, remember to take some time out for yourself too. You deserve it!