inFocus: Health experts say increased screen time can impact children’s health


MARYLAND (WDVM) — The pandemic has changed many things including how children are using technology, but with virtual learning taking place and kids using devices more, it may impact their well-being.

 A study from Intractable & Rare diseases stated “increased screen time in young children is associated with negative health outcomes such as decreased cognitive ability, impaired language development, mood changes, and short attention span”

However since the pandemic began  according to Axios, children’s screen time during the pandemic is surging by as much 50% to 60% more, which means children 12 and younger are spending upwards of 5 hours or more on screens per day and schooling is only part of children’s screen use.

The National Institutes of Health has shown that cortex which is  responsible for reasoning and critical thinking becomes thinner in children who spend more than 7 hours on screens.

“ In the younger ages where children are still learning a lot of those fine motor milestones and also speech. They’re acquiring all of these skills, and these things require reciprocal interaction. So, generally, between less than 18 and 24 months a lot of practices, a lot of our pediatricians in the nation try to discourage a lot of media use because it’s a time with this pivotal development that needs to take place and it happens a lot of time  through interaction with various modalities.” Said Mutsa Nyakabau MD, MPH Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine Family Healthcare of Hagerstown.

According to pediatric health news light from televisions and computer screens suppress melatonin and affect the quality of a child’s sleep. 

” With the  constant engagement that kids have with these screens, particularly close to bedtime. The brain is fooled into thinking that it’s still daylight; it’s still a time to be excited and awake and alert. So sleep onset becomes difficult and we all know sleep is very crucial for kids to grow” said Nyakabau

 However, experts say  using screen time apps to monitor technology use can also be helpful to set boundaries. 

” Setting up screen time guardrails so that way kids, build healthy relationships with technology is important. One tool that we have is called family link. What’s great about that is that if your child has an android device or a Chromebook, you’re able to set limits on certain apps or certain screen time limits, so that way they stay within those boundaries and you can decide what’s best for you and your family.” Molly VandenBerg, Google Technology Expert.

Health experts also say parents play a vital role in helping children create healthy relationships with technology.

” Parents should definitely be monitoring their own usage of screens around kids, that way they’re sending an example of what type of relationship you should be having with your screen.” said Dr. Alexander Chan Mental & Behavioral Health Specialist University of Maryland Extension.

Experts say setting boundaries with technology all begins with a conversation with your child.

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