Screen Times and Effects on our Kids
This is the article we all don’t want to read. We all know deep down that most kids are doing way too much screen time, and Covid made a simmering issue into a behemoth. There was simply no way out of it with online learning, being locked up inside for more months than any of us want to remember. But sadly, as a recent meta study done at Deakin university (and others) show that not only the repercussions of this extended human experiment, but also that since we have come out of restrictions, sadly, screen time has not gone back to pre-covid levels.
Another Australian study of 577,000 children from 42 nations shows us that the problems are extensive and they are in most cases reversible. The study was published in the Lancet, a prestige medical journal, that found that more than 2 hours screen time (not including school work however more on that later) has profound effects on general health and fitness, an increase in Type 2 Diabetes that can have life-long health problems, myopia (vision problems that lead to the need for glasses.), depression, anxiety (observed in ages as young as 2!), poor social skills, lack of social confidence and communication skills, a decrease in cognitive abilities, and ADHD symptoms, as well as ticks and spasms.
A frightening list. Sadly, we adults don’t fare much better, with a 40-50% increase in screen time and associated health and fitness problems, many of us have not got back into a healthy screen-less routine.
What is happening exactly? A few mechanisms are at play here. Firstly, the coloured flashing lights, most of us know, are designed to keep us engaged. The same principle that is used for poker machines that rob people of millions of dollars each year. This sounds and lights stimulate our brain and give us a dopamine hit (like cocaine or sugar) as a ‘reward’ for our persistent observation and engagement. In Traditional Chinese Medical terms, it is the heart and liver that are being over stimulated, without the balance of the other organs. For instance, the heart houses the mind and represents our identity and sense of self. It governs our passions and how we interact with others. When over stimulated by the screen games etc, it affects it’s connection to others, and the world around us. Almost turning in upon itself which is why after a long session, we feel emotionally detached and moody.
The Liver governs the eyes, and governs our need to act and do… move and do something about our passions in life. If this is focused on a screen for hours, the Qi flow becomes stagnant and repressed. This is why when you take the screen from your child (and even may observe in yourself) there is an aggressive outburst and possibly temper tantrums. The best way to deal with this is to get outside and run, play and move your body.
The study also looked at schools use of tablets as school work, and although some screen time in learning was found to be beneficial (up to 2 hours), it needed to be balanced with more movement and activity or the positive effects drop off dramatically.
Some things that can help is talk to your school about home-work, in all but the more senior years, most of the time paper and pencil based home work is much healthier for our kids. Imagination based learning is also beneficial as well and regular breaks and getting out and playing outside. It’s vital that screen time is out-weighed by ‘green time’ out riding a bike and playing outside. Don’t be afraid if your kids get grumpy at you initially, they will come back hungry and sleep so much better. Read to you kids instead of relying on a screen to ‘wind them down’, or even try imaginary stories. Of course, music is a great wind down too. For more tips and information on this issue, look up Kids News and the article “Two Hours screen time hurts kids Health”.
Until next time stay well.
Dr Angela Palmer