With an ever-expanding selection of gadgets, screen time has been increasingly incorporated into parenting routines; however, there may be unintended yet dangerous consequences for children’s health. Saunders and Vallance (2017, 323) state that children’s screen exposure begins from a very young age, with roughly half of the children and youth exceeding the two-hour exposure limit prescribed by health authorities. The disparity between a recommended amount and an actual average presents a significant cause for concern. Furthermore, Domingues-Montanari (2017, 2) found excessive screen time to be associated with declined health outcomes and cognitive abilities in children, most harmful effects in the youngest ones. The detrimental developmental concerns should be addressed starting early on to avoid long- and short-term consequences; hence, to combat the adverse effects of addiction, parents should make efforts to limit children’s screen time consistently.
The addiction children and adolescents develop to screens are rooted in several sources. Rich, Tsappis, and Kavanaugh (2017, 4) attribute the screen addiction prevalence among kids to their ability to quickly adapt as well as children’s underdeveloped impulse control. From watching cartoons on YouTube during a long trip to seeing parents on the phone, endless electronic content provides an effortless occupation. Consequently, Rich, Tsappis, and Kavanaugh (2017, 5) estimate that exposure to screen-based activities commonly reaches eight-nine hours per day in teens and up to six hours for younger children. However, with the rapid technology onset, it is difficult to distinguish between regular use and addiction. Rich, Tsappis, and Kavanaugh (2017, 6) contest that it is deemed an addiction when behavior is uncontrolled and impairs one’s physical, psychological, or social functions. Furthermore, Domingues-Montanari (2017, 4) lists socio-economic factors such as belonging to ethnic minority groups and low-income families as contributing to an increased risk of excessive screen time. This is likely due to parents from lower socio-education backgrounds often not having the money and time to engage a child consistently and creatively in non-screen activities.
There is growing evidence demonstrating the negative effects of excessive and addictive screen use on children’s physical, psychological, social, and neurological health. Fang et al. (2019, 744) and Lissak (2018, 149) state that excessive screen time has been associated with physical symptoms like poor sleep quality, obesity, impaired vision, and reduced bone density. These effects may prevent children from successfully engaging in sports and social events, thus further limiting their development. Lissak (2018, 149) also mentions high blood pressure, lower ‘good’ cholesterol levels, poor stress regulation, and insulin resistance. All these factors contribute to cardiovascular disease risk in the future. Furthermore, Twenge and Campbell (2018, 272) state that overall psychological well-being worsens with an increase in screen time, manifesting itself in children through anxiety, depression, and ADHD-related behaviors. Physical and mental health disorders put children at an increased mortality and morbidity risk. Additionally, Domingues-Montanari (2017, 3) cites early effects like hindered facial recognition and language delay, with the extent dependent on the content and quality of media. Overall, screen time is addictive, and excessive use results in hindered development in virtually every aspect, mandating a timely intervention.
Parents should ensure children’s well-being by establishing and addressing screen addiction early on. Nguyen et al. (2020, 2) encourage parents to set consistent limitations on sedentary recreational screen time since that increases the likelihood of kids engaging in sports and reading in addition to controlling the adverse effects of addiction. Thus, the first recommendation is to adhere to the guidelines and limit screen time in general. Specifically, Domingues-Montanari (2017, 4) suggests that limiting screens during mealtimes promotes time for the family to spend together. This approach simultaneously encourages healthy communicating and eating behaviors in children. Furthermore, the content should be educational and of high quality rather than solely entertaining to foster the development and critical thinking skills. Domingues-Montanari (2017, 4) recommends that younger kids and their parents watch interactive media together to improve communication and learning by asking pertinent questions and discussing key messages. Thus, parents are encouraged to curate and balance education and entertainment carefully. Lastly, alternatives like sports, reading, drawing, and caring for plants or pets together with the parents are all common ways to engage with the child and should be encouraged.
Utilizing interactive media content is a common alternative to other, more costly, and time-consuming options; however, children subsequently develop a screen addiction. Additionally, in the modern world, where screens are everywhere, children observe their parents’ use of technology and begin to replicate that. However, excessive screen exposure is often not due to malice but rather because of the lack of knowledge and opportunity regarding alternative options. Excessive amounts of screen time are significantly associated with dangerous health consequences, including inferior life quality and physical and psychosocial health deterioration. Some of the effects include obesity, worsened sleep, lower emotional and mental stability, higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, and delayed development of speech and facial recognition. Specifically, younger children and children from potentially marginalized social classes are the most at-risk groups for suffering the harmful effects. The major way to combat screen addiction and prevent adverse health impacts is limiting screen time throughout the day. Additionally, carefully selecting the content and co-viewing it with children is recommended to foster positive educational interaction. Therefore, parents should prevent addiction by regulating the type and length of screen time that children consume to protect their children’s health.
Domingues-Montanari, Sophie. 2017. “Clinical and Psychological Effects of Excessive Screen Time on Children.” Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 53 (4): 333–338. Web.
Fang, Kehong, Min Mu, Kai Liu, and Yuna He. 2019. “Screen Time and Childhood Overweight/Obesity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Child: Care, Health and Development 45 (5): 744–753. Web.
Lissak, Gadi. 2018. “Adverse Physiological and Psychological Effects of Screen Time on Children and Adolescents: Literature Review and Case Study.” Environmental Research 164 (7): 149–157. Web.
Nguyen, Phuong, Long Khanh-Dao Le, Dieu Nguyen, Lan Gao, David W. Dunstan, and Marj Moodie. 2020. “The Effectiveness of Sedentary Behaviour Interventions on Sitting Time and Screen Time in Children and Adults: An Umbrella Review of Systematic Reviews.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 17 (1): 2–11. Web.
Rich, Michael, Michael Tsappis, and Jill R. Kavanaugh. 2017. “Problematic Interactive Media Use Among Children and Adolescents: Addiction, Compulsion, or Syndrome?” In Internet Addiction in Children and Adolescents: Risk Factors, Assessment, and Treatment, edited by Kimberly S. Young and Cristiano Nabuco de Abreu, 3–36. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Saunders, Travis J., and Jeff K. Vallance. 2017. “Screen Time and Health Indicators Among Children and Youth: Current Evidence, Limitations and Future Directions.” Applied Health Economics and Health Policy 15 (3): 323–331. Web.
Twenge, Jean M., and W. Keith Campbell. 2018. “Associations between Screen Time and Lower Psychological Well-Being among Children and Adolescents: Evidence from a Population-Based Study.” Preventive Medicine Reports 12 (December): 271–283. Web.