Many parents are tickled pink that their little one is able to operate a smartphone while lisping charming gibberish. The grandparents are prouder still. Many is the time they have been the source of embarrassment in front of dinner guests - "Baby Munna can operate the phone by himself - you were still wetting your pants his age!" (He does too, ma!). "My granddaughter knows all about these computers and Internet. She knows YouTube and AngryBirds. All by herself. After all, she is the daughter of software engineers, no?"
All so sweet, so far. But what if I told you that this tech-savvy nature of your kid will probably end up being a hindrance to his/ her mental development in the long run? Sounds rather bizarre, doesn’t it? However, that’s just what is getting experts and parents worried around the world.
Here are the key risks your toddler faces due to those swipes and screen time. Watch out!
1 Sleep Disruption. Most people don’t know but all our gadgets emit “blue light”. The light emitted by all our digital devices is enriched with short wavelength - meaning, it has a higher concentration of blue light rather than natural light. This short-waved blue light affects the action of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Now, exposure to blue light in the morning is good as it wakes us up; bad at night because it wakes us up. Kindle does not emit the same levels of blue light and yes, there are apps and filter screens to keep this emission in check; but use of digital devices just before bed time, stimulates our brain activity in a way that books don’t. Increased brain activity results in sleep disruption.
2 Addiction Trigger. According to some experts, an early taste for entertainment screening can lead to changes in the brain that stay for a lifetime; a life that may be shorter as a result. Screen time can be compared to other addictions as it creates significant changes in the brain chemistry. Neuroscientists are concerned that the release of ‘dopamine’ (a neurotransmitter known as pleasure chemical or reward hormone) every day for several consecutive years can damage the reward circuitry of a child’s brain and make her more dependent on screen media and also risk her resistance towards other addictions - from sugar to cocaine.
3 Childhood Obesity. Also known as the ‘couch potato’ disorder. Screen time is generally accompanied by fried snacks and other munchies. All these extra unhealthy calories aren’t used by the body due to reduced physical activity and get stored in the form of fat. This excess fat hinders growth resulting in stunted development.
4 Aggression. You are what you eat. Similarly, you react the way you constantly see people act. When kids are exposed to inappropriate and violent media, their brains are wired to react in a similar manner.
5 Attention Deficit. At the very least, unchecked screen time causes lack of concentration, fatigue and below-average academic performance. (Read our article on the link between ADHD and Television.) It sets up the child for future roadblocks and even failure.
But take heart! When there are problems, there are solutions too. Go and read some of the ways you can take back control over your children’s digital life.