SCREEN DEPENDENCY DISORDER
Everywhere you look, screens are all around us. Everyone, from toddlers to the elderly, has easy access to it and often times, they are so engrossed in their devices that they forget what is happening around them. In this article, I am going to highlight exactly what Screen Dependency Disorder is and who does it affect the most.
As adults, we often forget that there are people around us who are observing our every action. By people, I don’t mean our peers but rather, toddlers and young children. At such a young and impressionable age, they are easily influenced by the environment around them as they are growing and learning information. When we are constantly looking at our devices, young children will be curious to know what exactly we are looking at and they in turn, might even mimic the behaviour as they think that it is the norm.
Children are often fascinated by the moving images and music in the videos shown on their screens. As such, they are often happy and quiet to have a device in their hands. Most parents will feel relieved by this as they are able to keep their child entertained and out of trouble, and at the same time, they are able to do some of their work without having to wait till late in the evening when their child is asleep in order to do it. However, do you know that excessive screen time is actually detrimental to young children?
Recent studies have consistently shown a relationship between the amount of screen time a child receives and their language development. A greater amount of screen time has shown to cause a decrease in words and sentences that toddlers and young children use, therefore resulting in delayed language development. A study done in Canada on almost 900 young children between the age of six months and two years found that toddlers who were exposed to more handheld screen time were more likely to have delayed expressive language skills (i.e. the child’s ability to say words and sentences were delayed). They also found that for every 30 minutes increase in handheld screen time, there was a 49% increase in risk of expressive language delay. Another study which surveyed more than 1000 parents of children under the age of two found that toddlers who watched more videos said fewer words. For each additional hour of videos that eight to sixteen month old infants watched in a day, they said an average of six to eight fewer words.
Taking into account the overwhelming evidence of the detriments of screen time, the Canadian Paediatric Society suggests that for infants and toddlers under 2 years of age, it is highly discouraged that they be exposed to any form of screen time at all. As for children from the ages of 2 to 5, it is acceptable to expose them to some form of screen time but it must be noted that the total amount of screen time they are exposed to should be under one hour per day.
During screen time, it is suggested that parents sit together with the child to talk about what they are watching. This will help the child to create a better understanding of what is happening in the video and they will be better able to use the lessons learnt in the video in their daily lives.
In lieu of screen time, it is highly recommended that parents engaged their children in play instead. Playing with items such as lego blocks, bubbles and engaging in pretend play activities are beneficial in terms of fine-tuning the child’s gross and fine motor skills, as well as expanding their concept on imaginative play. Another activity that is highly recommended is storybook reading. Storybooks with little words and big and colourful pictures are useful in engaging the child’s attention. Storybook reading helps to expand the child’s vocabulary and sentence-making skills. Parents can also use this chance to use simple words to explain the picture and the characters in it. (e.g. Look at the dog! It looks cute. The dog is sleeping under the tree. What sound do you think the dog make?)
The saying “It takes a whole village to raise a child” holds true. A lot of effort is placed in raising up a child and no shortcuts should be taken. How well a child grows up is determined by the amount of care and attention that the parents put into the child during their growing up years.