Beware of effect on kids
Beware of effect on kids

I often remind myself and the people around me that the No. 1 enemy of children, and adults, is the smartphone.

Let us be frank. Social media has more adverse effects than positive ones. These include swearing, goofy-dancing trends and the realistic beauty filters.

Do not be alarmed if you hear 5-year-olds swear, flip the middle finger and utter profanities.

Haven't experts on early childhood education warned us of the dangers of social media and unregulated screen time?

In our everyday lives, screens are ubiquitous. Parents routinely switch between working on computers, checking their phones, catching up on the news on TV and occasionally playing on a tablet. Children are picking up this behaviour. 

Kids aged 8 to 10 spend, on average, six hours per day in front of a screen, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When children are 11 to 14, this rises to more than hours per day. 

More hours of screen time entail more exposure to negativity. Do not be misunderstood; swearing is not the problem. When kids hear swear words, they know nothing of the meanings these vulgar words imply. They understand that the words are uttered when there's a build-up of strong emotion that requires releasing.

But the slurs and failure to self-regulate, and follow-up after the swearing are the primary concerns. Kids are just parroting what they see and hear without knowing the circumstances they bring about.

Screen use may have a significant impact on a child's development, according to a study by the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

In the research, which was published in JAMA Paediatrics, 73 kids between the ages of 32 months (3 years and 8 months) and 47 months (3 years and 11 months) were studied for 2Ω years (between July 2016 and January 2019), and data from 56 of them were analysed.

Toddlers participated in a 90-minute session, where their capacity for self-regulation was evaluated. These included their capacity to organise, manage and monitor their feelings, ideas and actions.

The toddlers had to perform a variety of tasks, including building a tower of blocks with the researchers and slowly moving along a line on the floor.

Meanwhile, youngsters were instructed not to open a gift in the researchers' absence from the room for a brief period as part of a delayed gratification experiment.

According to this test, which was developed in the 1970s, kids who could wait longer for a reward had better outcomes in later life.

The researchers compared the results of these activities to information on screen time that the parents had provided. The information included the youngsters' ages when they first came into contact with screens and how much time they spent using gadgets each week.

The results showed that early exposure to any screen medium decreased children's ability to self-regulate (including television, computers, smartphones and tablets).

Finally, in light of their findings, and as a precaution, the researchers suggested that parents limit the amount of time that preschoolers spent using mobile devices.

It sounds clichè and irritating to us parents, but delaying or at least limiting our children's exposure to any portable screen is the way to go.

When their time on screen is limited, it will stimulate self-initiative within preschoolers to search for other means of entertainment such as drawing, playing with toys and playing outdoors.

In the same research, the researchers found that traditional devices, such as television and computers, were safer than mobile devices.

We may think that we are giving a sense of enjoyment to our children by giving them more screen time on smartphones while we get some time off, but what we are doing is impairing and harming their ability to self-regulate.

For the love of our children, let us wage war against TikTok and YouTube!

This article was published on the News Strait Times website:

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