Family Magazine

Is TV and Screen Time Bad for Babies and Kids?

By Sangeetha

What are the effects of television on children?

Is TV and kids health related?

Is TV good or bad for your little one?

What are the positive effects of TV on children?

Is TV and Screen Time Bad for Babies and Kids?

Tomorrow, Nov 21st is the World Television Day, so I thought of sharing something related to television. Then I realised that cell phones, tablets, I-pads and computers have joined the television and all this contribute to the screen time our children get. Therefore, I decided to talk about screen time and the effects it has on our kids.

Through this post I will tell about the forthcoming American Academy of Paediatrics' (AAP) suggestion for screen time, screen time advantages, disadvantages, how one can convert screen time into a fun way of learning new things, whether it affects your kids vision and a few tips to limit your kids screen time if they get too addicted.

New generation screen time users:

We are parents in a digital age where even babies in diapers have mobiles as their first toys. Our kids growing in this tech-drenched world have become expert screen-time users.

How much screen time is allowed for babies, toddlers and kids?

Have you ever asked this question to yourself or anyone? We parents are confronted with so many doubts about screen time, using technology as a baby sitter, whether it affects their eye sight etc. I am sure at least a few moms who are going through this phase worries if their child will addicted to the screens. Right?

At times even I have felt guilty when I let my two and half year-old son goof around with my phone or I-pad to make him eat, to stop his sudden outbursts, when I am in kitchen or writing blog posts like these 😉

However, nowadays I don't have that feeling as I have started using screen time for him in a more balanced way.

You can also read the 4 ways to draw boundaries on the exposure of technology for kids.

What US Pediatric Academy has suggested and what it suggests now?

There has been a lot of research (some are still ongoing) about kids and screen time.

Previously, US Pediatric Academy recommended that children below age 2 should not be exposed to any electronic media and children above the age of 2, a screen time of more than two hours a day shouldn't be allowed. It is because a child's brain develops rapidly during the first few years and they learn best by interacting with people.

However, the forthcoming 2016 AAP formal recommendations are focused on "Pediatrics for the 21st Century (Peds21)".

It is reported that in these recommendations pediatricians have made fine adjustments in screen time for children younger than 2 years old, older children and teens. Maybe we can wait for one or two months more to know the American Academy of Paediatrics revised guidelines for screen time.

Advantages of balanced screen time for kids:

One should always keep in mind that the quality of media content really matters for kids than how much time they spend in front of screens.

If good quality of media content with a well-balanced screen time is allotted to kids who are more than 2-years-old there will be more benefits than harm.

Choosing age appropriate apps or software will help kids-

  • Learn to use technology
  • Help in learning letters, numbers, shapes, colours etc faster
  • Improve drawing, arts, crafts and DIYs skills
  • Be good at multitasking
  • Express their ideas and skills
  • Develop communicative skills, especially apps like skype helps those kids growing up in nuclear families.

I strongly recommend Ekavach app to ensure online safety of your child.

Disadvantages of too much screen time:

Screen time can be harmful for kids if the use is excessive. Some of the bad effects are cited below.

It is better to avoid screen time at least half to one hour before bedtime. The blue light from mobiles and other digital devices disrupt sleep. Blue light or HEV light is the light with shortest wavelength in the visible light spectrum, which can damage living tissue in the long run.

All digital devices emit HEV light. The amount of blue light a person receives depends upon screen brightness, its size, screen technology, distance between the screen and the user's eyes, duration of usage etc

It is said that children who watch violent TV shows or play violent video games display aggressive behavior. Violent media content can overstimulate kid's brain as children imitate what they see.

Too much video games or screen time creates significant changes in the release of brain chemical dopamine (pleasure chemical) which leads to short attention spans. This dopamine has many functions in brain including behavior, attention, cognition etc

Many evidence shows that too much screen time is responsible for language delay in some kids. Nowadays kids are not exploring the real world so chances are high that they show reduced verbal interaction.

Advertisements may influence kids and they may want only unhealthy food. Apart from that, he/she may not want to play any physical games and the restriction of physical movements as they are glued to screens much of the time can lead to childhood obesity.

Too much screen time makes kids less sociable, as there is not much face to face contact happening.

Does too much screen time effect one's vision?

There is no evidence that prolonged use of digital devices will affect one's vision or cause permanent eye damage. But prolonged use can cause problems like eye discomfort, dry eyes, digital eye strain, tension headaches in adults. You can apply " 20-20-20 rule" for your kids also while throwing screens at children.

You can also refer to the squint in babies.

What is "20-20-20 rule"?
Is TV and Screen Time Bad for Babies and Kids?

While watching screens, let your kids take a 20 sec break every 20 minutes by making them look off the screen into some objects 20 feet away.

This is done to relax the focusing muscles inside the eyes and trigger blinking to re-moisten the surface of the eyes.

How to turn screen time as learning time?

You can easily manage your kid's screen time as learning time by allowing to view

  • Age appropriate digital contents
  • Good quality of digital content
  • Co-viewing
Tips to limit screen time if your child is more addicted to screens

Setting time for viewing is one of the best solution. Do it strictly and soon it will become their habit.

This actually works. If you get down on the floor to play with your kids, they show less interest towards gadgets. Make sure that every day you spent some quality play time with your kid.

Involve your children while cooking, gardening, DIY arts and crafts, reading or writing book, bath time play, indoor games etc. Do make sure to read the 10 indoor activities for kids.

    Home gadgets in sleep mode during sleep time

Do not let your digital devices in bedroom during night time.

Sit with your child and visit quality websites, movies or apps together, discuss with them, play with them and encourage them. For toddlers, co-viewing is essential.

Bring a habit of more face time and less screen time for your kids. If you spend quality family time with your kids, you can really break your kids screen addiction.

Kids below 3 or 4 years really have to explore outside world as their young brain grows rapidly in initial few years. So take them religiously outside to a nearby park or beach and teach them how to kick/throw ball, how to pedal a bicycle etc

    Be a role model and limit your own media use

Kids see their parents using devices, so it's natural for them to inherit those quality from us. If they see us more time spending on social networks, they are more likely to be so.

Is TV and Screen Time Bad for Babies and Kids?

I would like to round off by saying that technology is not a one-size-fits-all-solution. Each parent has different opinions and different experience with screen time.

Whatever guidelines/recommendations comes in and go, or whatever you read/ hear, at the end of the day it's you to decide how to allot screen time for your child. Too much of anything is not healthy be it screen time or whatever else.

Do what you feel is right for your children, but limit your kids time in the virtual world in a balanced way.

Moms, do let me know your comments and views on this.

How do you ensure that screen time is not dominating your child's life? Let us know in your comments.

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