Parenting & Children's Health

Smartphones, Tablets, and Electronic Screen Devices - Boon or Bane

Written by
Dr. Suresh Kumar G D
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Jan 24, 2019   -  2 min read

Abstract

Abstract

This article discusses the use of smartphones and iPads in children, the problems involved, and some suggestions to manage them.

Smartphones, Tablets, and Electronic Screen Devices - Boon or Bane

Children today have something dominating their everyday life, which was not present even a generation ago. Many parents are perplexed and confused about how to handle this new phenomenon. I am referring to the ubiquitous gadgets like smartphones, tablets, iPad, and PlayStation, which can be fun and stimulating. But, they are also potentially harmful devices which need to be managed sensibly.

Children find these devices fascinating. They play games and watch videos. Older children and adolescents use them for social media to stay connected to their friends and peers. While there is no doubt that these devices are helpful, we also need to be mindful of their deleterious effects.

Many parents ask me ‘how much screen time is okay?’ No definite answer can be applied universally to all children. Some guidance says that there is little evidence to show that screen use for children is harmful in itself. However, there has been another recent study to show that children's psychological well-being starts to deteriorate after an average of 1 hour of screen viewing per day.

If these devices are used appropriately, it will develop a child’s knowledge and help them in staying connected positively. Unsupervised and unregulated screen time can harm a child’s development and prevent them from having real-life experiences. Parents should make sure children’s sleep, exercise, and family time is not compromised by excessive screen time.

These devices have become an inevitable part of modern life. Parents simply cannot ban these from their children’s lives, as invariably, they will have access to smartphones through friends and peers. We can try and inculcate sensible use of these devices from an early age.

Suggestions to Manage Screen Time (Including Television):

  • Set clear boundaries and stick to it. Agree with the child about a sensible screen time daily (for example, it can be 1 hour daily with some flexibility during weekends and holidays). It may be difficult initially, but eventually, the child will come to accept the rules. This will prevent the child from getting glued to the screen and avoid the danger of developing an addiction.
  • As parents, we need to be a good role model. If we browse or use smartphones indiscriminately, children will follow suit.
  • Avoid using smartphones and iPad during meals.
  • Avoid use of these screens at least an hour before bedtime. The light from these screens has been known to disrupt natural sleep hormone (melatonin) secretion and contribute to poor sleep. So insist on switching of these devices at least an hour before planned bedtime.
  • Encourage lots of physical play. Take the children to parks, beaches, zoos, and other outdoor areas whenever possible.
  • Help children to develop some positive hobbies according to their taste and aptitude. These need to be stimulating enough for them to engage consistently. Do not make the mistake of thrusting your interests into your children.
  • Monitor social media accounts of teenagers tactfully. Teenagers would like their privacy, so discuss sensibly and educate them about the dangers of cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and related problems. Consider using parental control apps appropriately.

To sum up, these screen devices are like a double-edged sword. It is the duty and responsibility of parents to teach their children about how to use these devices safely.

Last reviewed at:
24 Jan 2019  -  2 min read

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