There were times when we eagerly welcomed technology into our homes wanting our children to become computer literate as early as possible. Today, the tables have changed. We learn that such giants of modern technology as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have raised their kids tech-free… and for a good reason, too. Chris Anderson, former editor of “Wired” magazine and co-founder of drone manufacturer “3D Robotics”, aptly puts it in words: “That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”
If they are concerned about their kids, shouldn’t we worry about ours too? The truth is that extensive exposure to gadgets has given a raise to an entire new diagnosis – Screen Dependency Disorder. Yes, it is real and it damages your child’s brain. A close relative of Screen Dependency Disorder is Internet Addiction Disorder… scary, if you think about it. So what are the effects of the Screen Dependency Disorder on our children?
- Disruptions in healthy sleep cycle. Young children tend to get less sleep and become less focused if they spend excessive time with smart devices. A study has shown that for every quarter of an hour children use smart device, they lose an hour of sleep.
- Delays in speech development. Another study showed that the more time children spend on smart devices, the longer their speech would be delayed.
- A variety of physical and emotional symptoms. Children suffering from Screen Dependency Disorder may experience such physical symptoms as weight loss or gain, insomnia, headaches, poor nutrition and eyesight problems. Emotionally, they may feel anxiety, loneliness, guilt and show signs of dishonesty. Likewise, there has been witnessed increase in self-isolation of those suffering from this disorder, where they also experience mood swings and agitation.
- Withdrawal symptoms. Just like with any addiction, if stopped cold-turkey, withdrawal symptoms become manifest. Parents may notice addictive behaviour in their kids and hear them lie about the time they spend on gadgets. Children may lose interest in outdoor activities and keep on using the devices, despite strict warnings not to do so.
- Addiction related issues. Since gadget addiction may affect the brain similarly like a drug or an alcohol problem, the brain might develop some structural differences. Children may lose control over their impulses, may become unable to organize, plan or prioritize. Likewise, addiction affects the parts of brain responsible for empathy and compassion for others.
Seeing all these red flags raised, we, as parents, should make some crucial decisions for safeguarding the well-being of our children. Hard as it may be, the use of smart devices and other gadgets must be curbed. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a maximum limit of sixty minutes screen time for 2 to 5 years old children. Kids younger than that should probably be cut off from the use of technology altogether and focus instead on healthy developmental activities. Even though ‘old-style’ parenting of actually spending time with your kids and playing games with them does require time and effort, every minute of it will pay off multifold, as we see our kids develop into emotionally and physically sound human beings. Switch off the screens and bring out the board games!