Using gadgets like tablets or smartphones is something that's part of our way of life, including our kids. Many of us load up these gadgets with educational apps and videos to help our kids’ development. And, yes, if we're being honest, there are times when we use them to keep our children entertained — and out of trouble.
The key is to control how often our kids (and us, grown-ups too!) use them because we know that while these electronic gadgets help stimulate the mind and reflexes of young kids, they may also have adverse effects on the health and well-being of growing children.
How can screen time all day affect the health of our kids? Ma. Veronica Reloza, M.D., a developmental pediatrician with Makati Medical Center's pediatrics department, lists down four ways.
Staring too long at a screen can cause dry eyes, headaches, fatigue, blurred vision, and more visual problems that your child may have to deal with for the rest of his life. Scientists have also linked prolonged exposure to LED screens to poor quality sleep, which affects kids’ energy and moods and may even lead to insomnia.
“Be sure to set a cap on the amount of time your kids can use their gadgets: one hour a day for 2 to 7-year old kids and none before that,” says Dr. Reloza. “As much as possible, make them use gadgets in a well-lit environment to prevent further eye strain.”
Good posture is developed during the growing years, but with constant gadget use, children have gotten used to being hunched over. A study from the British Chiropractic Association showed that 40 percent of 11- to 16-year-olds are starting to feel neck and back pain, which can be attributed to poor posture.
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It doesn’t matter whether your child is hooked on educational shows or cartoons — sitting on the couch all day with his hands and eyes glued to a tablet or laptop encourages a sedentary lifestyle. “This may result in children becoming overweight and obese,” said Dr. Reloza.
Tiny movements like typing or swiping a mouse can irritate tendons, causing them to swell and press on nerves. When these movements are repeated over a prolonged period of time, they can injure cells through the release of cytokines.
As with most other things, moderation is key. Your kids can still enjoy the benefits of having easy access to electronics, but as their parents, you have the responsibility to keep their usage within healthy limits.