Gadget overuse may cause poor literacy, cognitive skills
As mentioned in the editorial “Why Juan and Juana can’t read” (12/26/20), the Philippines ranked last in reading and second to the last in math and science among 79 participating countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment. Although the country’s educational system may be to blame, there might be another factor at work—screen time.
The electronic screen is part and parcel of television, video games, computers, tablets, and smartphones. When I googled “screen time brain development,” I came up with the following information.
A child’s brain develops when the child interacts with people, things, and the environment. More such interaction means more brain development, and less interaction means less brain development. Screen viewing does little to promote brain development. Therefore, more screen time means less nonscreen interaction, which means less brain development. Several studies support this.
One study found that the MRI scans of three- to five-year-old children with more than one hour a day screen time without parental involvement showed a lower level of development in gray matter, the area of the brain linked to language, literacy, and cognitive skills. Another study showed that children who spent more than two hours a day on screen scored lower in language and thinking tasks. Finally, kids who spent more than seven hours a day on screen experienced a thinning of the neocortex, the part of the brain related to thinking and reasoning.
That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time for children two to five years old to one hour a day of high quality programming like “Sesame Street.” In conclusion, for normal brain development, children need a lot of nonscreen observing, listening, reading, talking, touching, holding, playing, moving, exploring, learning, and socializing. In other words, they need a multitude and a variety of off-screen indoor and outdoor activities that stimulate the senses and the brain, so that they can learn reading, writing, arithmetic, and science well.
JORI GERVASIO R. BENZON
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