Childhood is the time to play, explore the world and to make a sense out of the behaviours around us. But gone are the days when kids enjoyed the wonders of the real world. Kids of all ages with smartphones and tabs in their hands are trapped in an artificial world.
Is this safe and healthy for kids? The horrors we are bringing to our next generation are alarming. Their health and moldable young minds, none are safe.
1. Brain damage
Children are more prone to brain damage due to harmful radiations. L. Lloyd Morgan, a senior science fellow at Environmental Health Trust and his colleagues reviewed the literature regarding smartphone exposure studies from 2009 to 2014.
They found that children absorb radiations at a higher rate than adults! Their brain tissues are more absorbent, skulls are thinner, and head size is smaller. They absorb radiations two times more than adults and their bone marrow ten times more increasing the chance of brain tumours, degeneration of safety sheath around the brain neurons, dizziness and sleep disorder.
David Carpenter, MD, dean of SUNY’s School of Public Health, warns “we may be facing a public health crisis in an epidemic of brain cancers”. Research also warns that cell phones can lead to hearing the loss in kids.
2. Effect on eyes
Research conducted by scientists at Charotar University of Science and Technology (CHARUSAT) has highlighted the dangers of radiation from smartphones. “The problem is not that the eye absorbs the energy, but that the heat absorbed by the eye does not get transmitted or radiated out of the body,” says Dwivedi, one of the scientists. This means that our children are burning their eyes. Lengthy screen usage can affect retina, sclera, lens, and cornea.
3. Physical health
Grab a digital device and slouch on the bed, sofa! The child is quiet. So, more time for parents to do their tasks: an easy solution. But think what are they missing? Exercise is vital to healthy bones and muscles, the strength of our organs, blood circulation. It can lead to obesity in young kids.
Padma Ravichandran and Brandel France de Bravo, In “Young Children and Screen Time (Televisions, DVD’s, Computers)” studies the adverse effects of prolonged screen time can have on children under three.
They comment “…studies show that the more television infants and toddlers are exposed to, the more likely they are to be inactive and obese, have difficulty sleeping, and show aggression.”
4. Behaviour problems
Radiations increase hyperactivity in children. A two-minute call can increase hyperactivity for one hour resulting in mood swings and anger. In addition to it, the violent games manifold aggression, violence and fear among kids. They get the message that physical fights are the only way to solve problems.
5. Less parent-child interaction
A child looks up to his parents for emotional, social and financial support. More cell phones use widens the gap between a child and parents. In this digitalised world both parents and kids have mobiles in hand. If kids don’t find parents they may seek for solutions on social media or online forums and who is brainwashing their curious minds. Less parent-children interaction increase problems of shyness, anxiety, bullying and frustration. The increase in depression among children and teens can even lead to fatal thoughts of suicide or revenge.
6. Social isolation
Fingers zapping aliens or taking photos means no social skill. These habits promote loneliness, no friendships or family relations which are strengths of a society. When a kid is in real trouble or emergency where would he find it?
Playing excessive video games farther kids from reality. They start idealizing perfect heroes. Would they find real superheroes? Would they appreciate the diversity among different cultures? Would they accept the imperfect people around them? The culture of tolerance bloom among kids who socialize more with people around them.
7. Communication skills
Less social interaction means children don’t learn effective communicative skills. It’s an art to agree or disagree, request, accept or reject politely. Language skills are mastered with more in-person interactions.
Unfortunately, our kids are missing this if they spend more time on screens.
8. Facial expressions
Reading facial expressions and body language is primary to communication. Research has shown that with less real communication kids do not understand the full message of the speaker.
9. Social media exposure
What is more engaging than social media sites on mobiles? We are addicting our kids to without knowing. Social media can result in cyberbullying or mind moulding. Young minds are the victims of unchecked information. Most parents are even unaware of the negative content their kids are exposed to.
10. Learning issues
It’s a common practice to use smartphones and tabs in classrooms. But the high stakes attached to this classroom practice have adverse effects which both parents and schools need to ponder about. Mobile use impairs learning ability among children. They are more distractors than attractors.
Apps and websites are loaded with eye-catching buttons, options to touch, pages, pop-ups …simply the best way to lose concentration. Notifications are another hazard. Young kids anxiously wait for the next notification and unconsciously stay under stress. When these kids are required to read a book or listen to a message, they find it hard to sit for a while and concentrate.
Many a time the home tasks/homework is entirely forgotten. Commonly, the parents’ calls are not responded.
It is convenient for parents to simply download an e-book and let kids have a read. Jabr, Ferris in his paper
“Why the Brain Prefers Paper” suggests that e-readers prove less beneficial for children. When reading an e-book to children with sound effects, children were most interested in playing with buttons. Thus parents have to pause. This distraction lowers the attention span of kids. While “children followed the stories in paper books just fine.”
Reading involves perceiving letters, words, inferring meanings, and relating words with our experiences and prior knowledge. Kids negotiate with the text. When reading a paper book we may write our thoughts, ideas, underline something important. It is a whole memory building. From birth to five years is the age to lay the foundation of reading habit. And to reach maximum retention they need minimum distractors. On the other hand, e-books are building the habit of distraction rather concentration.
13. Loss of sensory development
Early years are vital to strong sensory development. Kids touch multiple surfaces, taste new items, hear and see different nature objects they are enriching their sensory perceptions. What does a child perceive with cell phones: A polish surface, heat, strong colours. To develop good hand grip, muscles need different exercises. A household environment has opportunities to foster body muscles but parents hinder natural sensory growth by handing over these devices.
14. Language development delays
More screen time creates language development delays in young kids because children interact less with family. Either they are quietly watching or hearing nonsense Dash! Bamp! Thwack! Crash! sounds in games.
According to Padma Ravichandran and Brandel France de Bravo: “screen time been linked to language delay and smaller vocabularies…”
15. Loss in playtime
Kids learn teamwork, handle responsibilities and develop leadership qualities while playing. Cell phones are an excuse to stay in-door when kids must be outside with friends. Even games like chess and monopoly stay in boxes. These games challenge the players, promote cognitive development, critical thinking and problem-solving. These are lifelong social skills to build a peaceful future world.
16. Bad habits
Dr David Hill, an AAP paediatrician (chair of the AAP Council on Communications and Media) states “Is the kid getting enough sleep? Exercise? Actual face time with friends and family? Is homework getting done?
These are the questions you need to ask. Any kind of compulsive activity, whether it be gambling or internet use, really boils down to the displacement of other things. What’s not happening if this is happening?”
17. Respect for nature
Activities like hiking, tracking, camping, cycling, and boating bring children closer to nature. Simple nature walks in the park are one of the best ways to teach mindfulness to kids. They look forward to having a day in the nearby park. This creates a love of Nature and grooms the sense of preserving it.
18. Limited world
The world is such a wonderful place to explore for curious minds. But parents usually confine the minds and hands of kids on a small screen which can never enrich their taste buds or soothe their eyes.
No matter how busy our lives are we need to monitor the screen watching habits of our kids. Smartphones and tabs provide an easy solution to kids’ curious and absorbent minds but on the cost of their social, emotional, physical and psychological growth. This looms a threat to the next generation. These kids are our assert, by bringing up healthy kids we are investing in our future. Let’s put in our share for the betterment of this universe.