Are We Raising Gadget-Addicted Schoolchildren?
It’s almost 10:00 p.m. You’re about to go to sleep, but you need to pass by your 7-year-old son’s room. While most of the space is dark, the covers appear brighter. It turns out your kid is still fiddling with his mobile phone.
It’s the weekend. You decide you’re taking the family on a weekend trip. How long has it been since the last time? Perhaps it’s been ages. You think lounging on the beach will be perfect. The weekend pass, but the children hardly took a dip. They were watching television, tinkering with their phones, or updating their social media.
You’re at the dinner table in a restaurant. While waiting for the food, you find the atmosphere a bit more silent. That hasn’t been the situation many years ago. You look at the people in front of you: their eyes are not on you.
These are not what-if scenarios but are realities of a grim truth that adults have to face: children are spending more time with their gadgets, and it’s not good.
The Shocking Statistics
As more children use gadgets, scientists want to find out whether this behavior affects their well-being. If it does, what is its impact? One of the areas of study is the amount of time that kids spend looking at the screens.
The results were shocking. In a report by a market research company Childwise in 2015, children have an average of 6.5 hours of screen time. This is on a daily basis. Not only that, they are now looking at screens much longer than the children in 1995.
The data revealed that 1995 kids between 5 and 10 years old spent an average of 2.5 hours. Their 2014 counterparts almost doubled it.
Understanding the Causes
What is driving the increased screen time among children, especially the young ones? The first on the list is the accessibility of mobile devices. According to a Common Sense Media report, about 42 percent of kids below 9 years old already own a tablet. It’s a drastic increase from no more than 1 percent almost 10 years ago.
Making it more accessible is the price of the mobile device. Experts already see a downward trend in their costs, and this decline will continue even this year.
Second, parents are using these gadgets to babysit their children. A UK survey highlighted this issue. About 25 percent of the parents said they allowed their children below 2 years old to use mobile devices for an average of 3 hours per day. The length of exposure, though, only increased as the children got older.
The Harmful Effects of Too Much Screen Time
As they say, too much of something is bad. A lot of screen time, particularly, among children can have a profound effect on their health and performance in school.
For one, technology can disrupt sleep. The body has an internal clock that is sensitive to the amount of light the eyes perceive. This is the reason why the body feels more relaxed at night and alert in the morning. Many of these gadgets are bright, and they can alter the way the body’s internal clock behaves. In the process, children sleep later than they’re supposed to be.
The lack of sleep, on the other hand, can affect their academic performance. They tend to fall asleep in class and lack attention and focus. Memory retention is also poor since sleep helps these types of information “stick” in the brain.
These mobile devices also provide the children easy access to content that is not child appropriate. These include TV shows, movies, and articles that can negatively influence body image. In a report about the matter, Common Sense Media shared how poor perception of their bodies can begin in early childhood. In fact, kids as early as 5 years old can already feel conscious about their size.
At SIS, we’re not saying that all these data don’t mean that children should never have any gadget. Communication is more convenient and faster. We understand how with them, useful information is within reach, an evolution of the Information Age that educational institutions including ourselves have to adopt to.
But there should be balance. The use must be accompanied by policing and discipline. The expert-recommended guidelines on screen time must be followed. Only then can gadgets become a more vital technology for our children today.