Do you often keep your child busy with gadgets while you’re working?
Be it smartphones or tablets, gadgets are inevitable items in a child’s play box today. Parents, amid their busy times, often treat those gadgets as tools to “keep children busy.” But what happens when children treat gadgets as the main means of having fun?
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 8- to 18-year-olds spend about 7 hours and 38 minutes a day on various entertainment media. Though some apps can provide educational benefits, multiple studies have shown that overexposure to electronic media can interfere with children’s cognitive development.
Particularly during the first three years of life when the brain develops significantly, children who are too dependent on gadgets may endure permanent damage, according to Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine.
“The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary — all those abilities are harmed,” said Sigman to Psychology Today.
In later stages of life, children who succumb too much to electronic media would also be likely to face difficulties in socializing. Should children feel too comfortable in their “comfort zone,” that is, the virtual world, they automatically invest less time in interacting with others.
Such addiction to electronic gaming may as well continue into adulthood if not curbed during childhood. Though gaming may keep your child entertained when you’re too consumed by work, exposure to electronic media should still be controlled. The best is always “enough.”
Here are some quick tips for parents:
1) Do your best to also to be good role model for your children. If you want your children to put away devices at the dinner table, make sure you are following those rules too.
2) For younger children, consider setting daily gaming limits with your children. For older kids, it is important for your children to be involved in proposing and negotiating these limits so they feel accountable. Balance the screen time with a healthy dose of non-screen activities such as physical exercise or crafts.
3) Do not view all screens as the enemy. Given that we live in the digital age, it may not be a good idea to simply limit all screen time for your children blindly, especially as they grow older. After all, they are expected to develop digital literacy to engage with the digital world as adults. Instead, you can be actively involved at curating appropriate content for your children. Pick out healthy media content and educational games, then sit with your children through some content in the initial stages so you know what your kids are engaging with. Also ensure that your children use their devices at appropriate times, not at the dinner table or other social settings where they are expected to be physically present.