TV, Smartphones, IPads…HOW MUCH VIEWING IS OK FOR OUR CHILDREN?

We have consistently been informed to limit the amount of time a child or teen watches TV and plays video games. Experts are concerned because such kids may develop ADHD, experience sleep deprivation and weight gain. But we cannot turn back the clock. Digital devices are not going anywhere. Parents must remember that each child is different and every brain responds differently to certain environments.

Studies on rats and mice have confirmed that intense audio/visual stimulation can alter brain circuits early in life. But what does that mean for the young human brain? Scientists question if our brains were created to endure fast-pace stimulation like video games, Apps and smartphones. Although some stimulation may desensitize a child’s brain, it may also prepare the brain for a quick-paced lifestyle.

We all know the importance of REM sleep for the growing brains of children and teens. Overall, published studies have shown that prolonged use of smartphones, laptops and tablets before sleep can negatively impact sleep patterns.

According to PubMed, “One study compared the effects of reading an electronic book illuminated by a light-emitting device (LE-ebook) versus a printed book (by reflected light) for four hours prior to bedtime for five consecutive nights. Subjects in the LE-ebook group had suppressed melatonin concentrations in the early part of the night, a delayed endogenous circadian melatonin phase, felt less sleepy before bed, took longer to fall asleep, and reported feeling sleepier the following morning. These observations suggest that evening use of light-emitting devices may contribute to phase-delays in the circadian clock and difficulty initiating sleep.”

But screen time can also be used wisely. There are positive television programs and educational Apps for children and teens. Research shows children and teenagers can benefit from media use, including learning new information, exposure to new ideas and social support. But negative impacts of too much screen time include the inability for kids to recognize emotions and be able to interact face-to-face. There’s also a risk of exposure to questionable or unsafe content. While there’s no one-size-fits all solution, parents, teachers and pediatricians should collaborate and develop a family-specific media plan. You can implement the following guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics for children (5-18 years old):

  • Limit the amount of time or type of media that can be used especially I believe for our young ones!
  • Emphasize/promote daily physical activity and sufficient hours of sleep
  • Try to not let children sleep with electronic devices in their bedrooms
  • Avoid screen time during the hour before bedtime
  • Avoid screen time during family dinners
  • Communicate these guidelines to babysitters/grandparents
  • Have ongoing conversations with the child about sexting, cyberbullying privacy infringement

In addition to collaborating with experts, please follow the SENSE model to benefit everyone in your household:

Sleep – Regardless of age, everyone needs adequate hours of sleep

Exercise – light exercises such as walking, stretches and basic yoga do wonders for the body and mind

Nutrition – an anti-inflammatory diet not loaded with carbohydrates and sugar will decrease your child’s chances of acquiring obesity and behavioral issues. A diet loaded with fruits and vegetables will go a long way for you and your child/teen.

Stress-reduction – high levels of stress are never beneficial – do what you can to diminish your stress

Positive Emotions –Your inner circle should be supportive, providing assistance however possible.

Disclaimer
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualifies health provider before making any health, medical or other decisions based upon the data contained herein. Information provided is for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professionals.

Related Topics

Sean Daneshmand MD

Sean S. Daneshmand, M.D. is one of the busiest and most caring people you may ever meet. As the founder of the charity, Miracle Babies, as well as a full-time doctor, father, husband and business owner, it is hard to believe that he sleeps at all—or perhaps, he has found a portal to the 36-hour day. Dr. Daneshmand is a perinatologist (high-risk obstetrician) whose expertise includes obstetric and surgical management of invasive placentation, care of pregnancies following in-vitro fertilization, and management of maternal medical problems during pregnancy at the San Diego Perinatal Center. He was recognized by CNN, in their CNN Heroes segment, for his work with Miracle Babies and his dedication to his patients.