As of the time of this post, most children are born into a world filled with gadgets and screens. I can assure you that you can see a child with a phone or a tablet everywhere you turn to. Granted, technology has its pros and cons. At least in the cities, a good number of children under the age of 8 years have their own tablets or phones. Can you think about your childhood for a second?
If you want to help your child’s brain, you should limit the time they spend with phones and tablets to not more than 2 hours a day, they should get enough sleep and move around a lot. Early data from studies that began as far back as 2018 noted that children who spent more than 7 hours a day looking at screens had what we call “a thinning of the brain’s cortex” the cortex is the part of the brain that helps with reasoning.
During the early part of a child’s life, the brain develops and learns new skills, things like imagination, exploring outdoors, playing with other children help develop other parts of their brains. This development happens very rapidly, they watch the adults in their lives and try to interact with them, this is how they learn about the world.
Excessive screen time may affect a child’s ability to learn new things. They are not paying attention to anything around them. Their ability to learn new things is reduced.
The Evidence Against Screens
There is also some evidence that children who spend a lot of time in front of a screen perform poorly in tests and may show a deficit in attention. In the brain, there are two things you should know. The White matter and the Grey Matter. The white matter is made up of fibers or like I like to call them, “wires” Their job is to transport signals from one nerve cell to another. Research has shown that children who spend excessive time in front of screens have reduced white matter in their brains. This white matter is important in learning language and cognitive skills.
The screens are not the problem per se, they are not bad in themselves. The problem is that using the screen tends to interrupt activities that help them develop vital parts of their brain. As a result, brain development might be interrupted. Also caregivers have a huge role to play here, if a caregiver is present while the child is using the screen talking and explaining what is on screen, they might help the child with develop communication skills. Do not just leave a child for hours alone with themselves by a screen.
What To Do As A Parent
There are some guidelines when it comes to screen time and your babies.
The World Health Organization advises that
- Babies under 18 months of age should not be exposed to screens. Except for video calls
- Children under 5 years should get an hour a day of screen time
You can add the following
- If your child has to use a screen, use it with them, talk to them while they use it. This is to help their social skills
- Create alternative games or play for your kids that promote language, pretending, and problem-solving. Examples are jigsaw puzzles, Lego games.
- Let them actively solve problems.
- Activities like running, dancing, etc. will help with eye-hand coordination and balance.
- Prioritize outdoor activities