Limit kids’ use of cell phones, tablets
Who do you think will die younger, have behavior and sleeping problems, and become fat, aggressive, anxious and impulsive? Answer: children who were allowed to use cell phones and tablets and watch TV more than two hours a day. Unfortunately, 7 in 10 families with modern gadgets do not limit their children from excessive screen time.
Here is why young children who are constantly using high-tech gadgets have more school problems and difficulty later in life, and are prone to die younger because of car accidents.
The brain of a newborn is about one-fourth the size of an adult’s brain. From birth to three years old, the brain size triples, which is about 80 percent of the adult size. By five years the brain has grown to 90 percent of that of an adult.
The first three to five years of a child’s life are so critical that in most individuals, this period can predict their personality, attitude and mental capacity as an adult. Why? Because the brain’s growth and performance are largely dependent on its environment, which includes the parents, grandparents, babysitters, toys, tablets, and TV. During a child’s first five years, when the brain is exposed to positive words and happy interactions with parents or caregivers, this lucky child will likely succeed later in life.
In a study of 1,000 children aged between 10 and 11, the researchers measured the respondents’ time in front of a screen, their psychological wellbeing, and physical activity. The results showed that more than two hours a day of TV or recreational computer use were related to higher psychological difficulty scores, regardless of the amount of time of physical activity.
A child whose parents talked to him or her at about 35 words a minute (2,100 words per hour) from infancy to three years old has a better chance of succeeding in school, finishing college, and owning a house. This was the result of the study by Hart and Risley of 42 families in the state of Kansas in America, as reported in the book “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children.”
The biggest reason children are happy and smart is their positive interaction with their parents and environment. And the reason children fail in school and many end up in prison is growing up in a dysfunctional family.
Dr. Fran Walfish, a child and family psychotherapist based in Los Angeles, California, said many toddlers have become addicted to tablets. “It’s mind-blowing and scary.”
With the environment having a huge influence on brain development, children who start using a cell phone or a tablet before the age of three can become addicted to it, just like prolonged TV watching with its many negative effects.
If parents do not limit their children’s use of gadgets, the relationship between them results in lesser interaction, which in turn leads to delayed language and cognitive development.
Some studies estimate that 60 percent of parents do not closely watch their children’s use of technology. About 75 percent of children are allowed to use a tablet and cell phone in their bedroom. And from a Boston College study, 75 percent of children between 9 and 10 years old are sleep-deprived because of excessive use of tablets, resulting in failure in school.
We need a national mental health education program for parents on how to have happier, smarter children through the barangay health centers, primary care physicians’ offices, national newspapers, TV, and social media. Preschool classes at four years old are too late.
Dr. Leonardo L. Leonidas (nonieleonidas68@ gmail.com) retired in 2008 as assistant clinical professor in pediatrics from Boston’s Tufts University School of Medicine, where he was recognized with a Distinguished Career in Teaching Award in 2009. He is a 1968 graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and now spends some of his time in the province of Aklan.