Smartphones, Tablets Causing Mental Health Issues in Kids as Young as Two

We have crossed the millennium and we have new generations of people and children that have never lived without the internet, social media, and smart phones. Nowadays small children would rather play with their tablet then with their Winnie Pooh.

The question that pops up is the following:

Should we allow our children to spend so much time in front of the blue screens?

This is an issue that many parents and caregivers are concerned about. Academics have realized the importance of this issue and have conducted several researches.

The American established academic, Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University and Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia has recently released a research in the Preventive Medicine Reports on the time spent in front of a screen and its effects. He has done the research on American children in the age range of 2 to 17.

Here are his findings:

  • A great number of American children who spent lots of hours in front of a screen every day are diagnosed with anxiety and depression compared to the children who do not spend so much time in front of a screen.
  • 1 hour a day in front of a screen is related with “less curiosity, lower self-control, more distractibility, more difficulty making friends, less emotional stability, being more difficult to care for, and inability to finish tasks.”
  • Pre-school children exposed to high amounts of screen time are “twice as likely” to succumb to temper tantrums and almost half of them are more likely to become uncontrollably hyper when excited.
  • In case of teenagers, the ones who spent plenty of time in front of the screens are less likely to finish their given tasks. What they will finish in a particular day depends on the time they spent in front of a screen.
  • High and as well as moderate screen time use is related to lower levels of curiosity and interest in learning new things in children in the age range of 11 to 13.
  • Both moderate screen use lasting for 4 hours and high screen use of 7 hours and even more is associated with reduced psychological wellbeing.
  • What amazed the researchers is that the link between high screen time and poor mental and emotional wellbeing was stronger among adolescents than in young children.

Professor Twenge stated the following:

“At first, I was surprised the associations were larger for adolescents. However, teens spend more time on their phones and on social media, and we know from other research that these activities are more strongly linked to low wellbeing than watching television and videos, which is most of younger children’s screen time.”

Fortunately, the findings of Twenge and Campbell’s showed that well being of children is almost the same in children who have controlled screen time and children with no screen time. These findings suggest that there is no need to cut all computer time, TV, or video games in order to ensure healthy development for your children.

The screen time many parents use it as a reward or as a punishment according to the researchers from the University of Guelph. Namely, most parents use screen time to control behavior, particularly during weekends when children can spend 20 additional minutes on screens. Misbehavior is punished by cutting off screen time, and good behavior is rewarded with more screen time.

As per the researchers of the University of Michigan Health System, 13% of parents don’t limit their children’s screen time at all. On the other hand, 47% of parents fail to meet the guidelines for age-appropriate screen time and around 25% of parents with children in the age range of 2 to 5 years old leave their children in front of screens for over 3 hours on daily basis. According to experts you should not allow your toddler at all to stay in front of a screen, and to limit children and adolescents to a maximum of 2 hours screen time a day. Screen time does not mean only the use of smartphone or tablet, but as well as television, games, and social media.

Although there are negative effects of the overuse of screens, some experts still maintain”…that regular use of technology like tablets and smartphones might actually have a few cognitive benefits”.