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Posted on 04-23-2018

How Screen Time is Affecting Your Child’s Health

Children running to chiropractor's office in Mississauga, ON

You’ve heard the saying “everything in moderation”, which applies in various aspects of our lives, and the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen is no exception. With the advancements in technology and the opportunities for early education, screens (in moderation!) can definitely add a benefit to your child’s development. However, it’s also been shown that increased durations, without any restrictions, can cause huge problems in a child’s development and overall health. This can present itself in the dangers of too much screen time, but also in the withdrawal or lack of key developmental activities while kids are stuck in front of a screen.

Taking an Active Role in Limiting Screen Time

What’s important to note is that kids aren’t very good with moderation. They need adults to set the limits for them in order to understand what’s healthy for them. This means that it’s up to adults to do it for them, no matter how inconvenient it may be. Nowadays, screens in the forms of TVs, tablets, laptops, phones and video game consoles have become increasingly convenient for a lot of parents, often using them as a distraction or as a temporary “babysitter” so that the parents can free up time to do other things. However, parents must not choose convenience at the expense of their child’s health, especially at such an early age. One can argue that there’s educational benefit to stimulating a child with certain shows and characters, but with moderation in mind, here is a guideline from the American Academy of Pediatrics on healthy limitations for your child’s screen time in regards to age: 

  • Under 2 years – NO SCREEN TIME! These are very formative years of development for your child and need the proper activity and stimulation so that their development isn’t affected or prolonged. It’s best to stimulate the child with toys, especially ones that move (ie. using a rattle), as well as spending more personal time with the child, playing and talking, in order to encourage movement and social cues. 
  • 2-5 years – Maximum ONE hour of preschool TV, but no computer time. There’s still room for education benefit here, but there’s no need to exceed more than an hour in a day. 
  • 5-8 years – Maximum ONE hour 
  • Over 8 years – Maximum TWO hours

Early Development

Children these days are spending upwards of 7 hours a day in front of a screen, both for educational and recreational purposes, which far succeeds the recommended limitations for healthy screen time. Especially when they’re under 2 years old, parents should not introduce such stimulation to a child, especially at a time when their brain goes through the most rapid growth and development. Being in front of screen limits the child to a confined position, when they should be spending their time exploring a more broader environment. Being confined to a screen can lead to altered cognitive and social development, which research is still trying to catch up with and understand, but still don’t see any added benefit in adding screen time at such a young age.

Toddlers and Young Children

When a child is within the range of 2-5 years, they become more self-reliant and strong-willed in their decision making. Therefore, it’s important to the introduce them to the right environments in order to engage and interact with people and objects around them. Again, confining children to a screen may limit the child’s potential to development and improve their social interaction with other kids and engage in physical activity that will prove as beneficial habits in the future. Attention problems can become a problem in the future, as screens promote stimulation that can sometimes exceed what’s needed by the brain. But most importantly, without setting limitations, children can become dependent, or grow a need to be in front of a screen as the brain adapts to overuse, and can lead to attitude problems if withdrawn from them.  Without the proper social interactions, this may lead to social and mental issues in the future, and promoting a sedentary lifestyle so early can promote early health risks, or make them more susceptible to them in later years.

Adolescence and Above

Once a child reaches the age of 5 and older, more screen time won’t have the same effects on their cognitive development, but make sure to set strict limitations and still introduce them to activities that promote exploration and creativity. Explain to the child while limitations are important, which can form healthy habits in the future, even if they won’t see the short-term benefits of restricting their screen time. Providing boundaries for children, especially when they are young, will benefit your child greatly in the long-term. It may be the easier and convenient solution to dealing with a child, but limiting their screen time can promote healthier habits and development for the future.

What All This Means for the Lasting Health of Your Child

Another aspect in all of this is to see the physical detriment that technology has on anyone’s spine, especially with overuse. To have children looking down at their devices poses as a postural detriment at such an early age. And if not catered to, this is the posture that they will carry into their adult years, often allowing physical and health issues to arise much sooner than they should, most especially acting as an interference in the body’s natural healing ability and it’s communication with the brain. It’s not only imperative that parents be mindful of their children’s posture (which is why physical activity is a much better solution), but it’s also important to get your children checked, even right from birth, to make sure that any misalignments they are dealing with now don’t carry on into the future.

Call Your Mississauga Chiropractor to Make an Appointment for Your Child

Your Mississauga Chiropractors here at Active Family Chiropractic & Wellness Centre enjoy having children come into our clinic, not only to provide health and healing at such an important stage of their life, but to also help educate and promote better health habits so they can grow up to be a greater influence in our future community. If you have any questions, or would like to talk to us about your child’s posture, feel free to contact us at (905)821-4951.

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