How Gadgets Affect Your Kids’ Health
Gadgets have become a necessity in our lives. We rely on our gadgets such as the smart phones in almost every minute of our time, be it to communicate or for information searching. Over 1.8 billion people own smartphones and use their devices on a daily basis. Some studies estimate that an average person checks their screen 150 times a day. The interesting fact for parents is that studies have shown that as parents increase their screen time (whether it be smart phones, TV, computers, video games), their children do the same. Our children are constantly learning from us and following in our footsteps.
When we are so glued to our device’s screen instead of our child, we are sending a strong message that says, “My phone or the TV is more interesting than you.” Parents often wonder why kids are so interested in our smartphones and tablets, and it’s because from the day they’re born, they see us glued to these devices. In turn, children are fascinated by electronics and want to use them, too. Is that normal way to go for modern day kids?
It is common sense that technology brings loads of benefits to our lives. In a lot of things, technology also makes things easier for our kids too. However, too much of something is always bad. A study led by Dr Nirmala Karuppiah from the National Institute of Education’s (NIE) early childhood and special education academic group revealed that children using electronic gadgets like smartphones at a younger age are increasingly exposed to certain social and health risks that come with it. Researchers of the NIE study visited the homes and schools of 60 children from five pre-schools to observe their computer habits. There was an equal mix of boys and girls, aged five and six years old (source: The Straits Time article at http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/kids-using-gadgets-at-earlier-age-being-exposed-to-risks-study).
Many, however, were not aware of the risks involved in the misuse and excessive use of these devices, said Dr Karuppiah.
She pointed out health risks such as poor sitting postures and children straining their eyes by sitting in front of and staring at electronic screens for too long. There are also social and emotional risks like gaming addiction and cyber-bullying, which could lead to serious consequences. Children could pick up negative habits like being violent, or face problems in socialising with peers.
“Some children tell us they skip meals or eat faster so that they can finish their game, and go on to the next level,” she said. “These problems worsen later on in the primary schooling years, but such habits may be formed when they’re younger. So, we need to trace back to see where they first start.”
Dr Karuppiah hopes that the study can spark further research in this area, and its findings can be used to develop preventive programmes for pre-schoolers. “Computers, iPhones and iPads are here to stay so we hope to educate parents on the dangers involved in the misuse and excessive use of them,” she said.
Some Tips to Limit Risks
It’s time that we set an example for our children and put down their devices. Here are some tips that will help you and your kids slowly ‘unplug’ (source: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2015/06/12/how-electronics-could-be-affecting-your-childs-health):
- Remove the TV from the bedroom. Take the TV out of your room and your child’s room. Screen time at bedtime has been shown to influence sleep patterns and lead to less sleep and increased behavior problems.
- Ban electronics from the dinner table. Make mealtime an electronics-free zone – no TV, no smartphone, no tablet on the table. Eating with screens on makes you more likely to consume more calories and less likely to have a conversation with your child. Take the time to find out what happened in your child’s day instead of reading posts about what’s happening in other people’s lives.
- Put limitations on screen time. Limit as much screen time as possible – ideally no more than one hour per day. The more our children use electronics, the less physical activity they do. Fight the boredom by making a list of things to do to keep the kids occupied.
- Set aside play time. Show your child he or she is more important than the screen, and do things the old-fashioned way. Play with your kids, and let their imaginations run wild. Take them to the park, a museum or help them build a fort in the living room. Better still, let them join available fitness or movement programmes designed for the kids, such as what Monkeynastix can offer them.
- Get interactive with your children. There are times when screens are OK, but if you’re going to use electronics, use them together as a family in an interactive way.