Two recent studies have uncovered some disturbing facts surrounding the damaging effects technology can have on teenagers and children. The first showed that when teenagers use their phones late at night, their chances of suffering from low self-esteem and depression increase greatly. And, late night phone use negatively impacts overall sleep quality. The second study illustrated a strong link between children’s iPad use and later speech delays. With data pointing towards some serious side effects, both studies show the importance of parents or caregivers monitoring and limiting “screen time.”
Although parents often allow their younger children to play with iPads to keep them busy or learn new things, the study found that with every additional 30-minutes a child spends on a device, there was nearly a 50% jump in the chance for expressive speech delays. An expressive speech delay is when children do not use words or sounds to communicate. Although parents may believe that putting their child in front of an iPad can help them to learn, research instead points to the importance of limiting this so that children have the chance to develop language in other ways.
In order to monitor the effects of iPad use, researchers in the study examined children up to 18-months-old. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), no amount of screen time is good for children 0-18 months. The only exception the AAP makes is to video chat with family members who are away, such as a parent on active duty.
Even with the concerning results of the study, the rate of children using iPads appears to be steadily increasing each year. This should come as no surprise since technology seems to only be getting more and more popular. In 2011 only 10% of kids under 2-years-old had used an iPad. By 2013, at least 40% had. Common Sense Media (CSM), a nonprofit that helps children, estimates that the number of kids using iPads and smart phones is far higher today.
While iPads and smart phones may offer educational options for younger children, what is most damaging for children immersed in technology is that they are missing out on important learning activities with their family members. CSM’s director notes that normal play, reading, singing and talking with parents or caregivers are all “critical” activities for general child development.
Just as technology is proving to be damaging with the younger generation, teenagers are also at risk for some serious consequences. Not only did the second study find that late night cell phone use compromises a teenager’s emotional wellbeing, leading to problems with self-esteem and depression, but it also found that it causes them to lose a lot of sleep – in fact, sometimes up to half of the amount they’re supposed to be getting.
Doctors recommend that teenagers get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep a night. But, cell phones prove to be a major distraction, with many teenagers using them for hours while they’re in bed. Researchers believe that not only does this make them lose important sleep, but it creates anxiety while teens wait for a friend to send a message or email back.
Losing sleep can be harmful for not only the mind, but also the body. Moodiness, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, disorientation and other serious side effects are all caused by a lack of sleep. For teenagers who are trying to focus in school, this can cause problems all around. All of these potentially damaging effects from spending too much time with technology highlight the importance of family involvement and rules to regulate iPad and cell phone use.
According to researchers, parents as well as teenagers can benefit from having house rules about cell phones. To combat late-night phone use, have every family member turn their phone in and leave them in the kitchen or another common area. Prohibit phones from being in bedrooms so that temptations for distraction are limited.
The AAP has specific recommendations of screen time for kids. The academy recommends no more than 1 hour of screen time per day for children between 2 and 5-years-old. For kids over 6, the AAP instructs parents and caregivers to come up with their own rules for watching TV or playing on an iPad. It seems that with all the data we have, there is no question that limiting screen time is extremely important for the emotional and physical wellbeing of children and teenagers alike. To read more about nationwide screen time recommendations, please click here: http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/21/health/screen-time-media-rules-children-aap/index.html.
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