Is it a result of tablet addiction?
The tablet is all-pervasive as a plaything for little ones, especially the toddlers - and parents are amazed at the speed with which the small ones learn to swipe a touch screen. A tablet is one which can be used by any little one who is mature enough to pin point a digit. The fundamental problem is the modern perception that children need to be kept busy and occupied at all times. Giving a child a tablet is a convenient way for parents or care givers to grab a few minutes for themselves. We often hear paediatricians discouraging screen use, including television, for children under two; a big NO TV for babies; and no apps with funny cartoons on a parent’s or babysitter’s mobile phone.
But we still find that there has been an explosion in the electronic media market, which happens to be a multimillion-dollar business selling computer games for very young children - some as young as nine months. Our devices now have a Major impact on our daily activity and our children are growing up bathed in a digital glow.
We are familiar with the phrase “sleeping like a baby”, but this phrase is not apt in today’s world which is definitely a high-tech age. Televisions as well as video games also disturb sleep, but it is a less ubiquitous force in our daily lives. On the other hand, touch-screen devices (phones, tablets, cameras) are everywhere and at all times. It means that the correlation between use of media and loss of shuteye is more dire than ever. And yet everywhere you go, you see toddlers clutching ipads in their strollers and babies gawking at iphones while mothers wait in a departmental store line. Not only are tablets and smart phones great gadgets for engaging the children but they can also be a great bribery tool.
IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY
But there are some parenting experts who say that using screen time as bribery or enticements may have trade-offs. Mostly all kids and especially the toddlers are adept at handling them efficiently before they hit two years of age. Swiping, unlocking or searching on smart phones and tablets are the skills possessed by amajority of the children. “Technology — and specifically computer, cell phone and tablet use — is having a negative impact on children of all ages,” says Dr Keith Fabisiak, a leading paediatrician.
Sadly, although tech moguls, such as Steve Jobs, famously limited his own children’s access to technology, the rest of us often fall under the thrall of the screen.
Sometimes it is the parents, and not the kids, who become reliant on the gadgets. “The trouble is that, with three kids under 10, it’s hard to get anything done without an electronic babysitter,” says Anita Lalwani. But most kids prefer to play with their siblings, parents or friends rather than video games.
Somewhere along the line, a misinterpretation of neuroscience has led parents to believe that all stimulation for a child is good stimulation. Although these gadgets are not yet proven to be counterproductive, it still robs the children of their precious time in the real world that are known to be important for development. It has been shown repeatedly that at least 60 minutes per day of unstructured play, when children learn to entertain themselves, either alone or with another child and without adult or technological interference is essential. This is the time when a kid uses its imaginative faculty and fancy; when he or she develops the skills of problem-solving and decision-making; and learns early maths concepts, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. The use of electronic gadgets during bedtime causing children to sleep less leaves them excessively tired the following day and can lead to severe health issues. They arrive at their classes the next day with a “digital hangover”.
For babies in particular, the lack of sleep in those early months and years can impair brain development. The trouble is that every additional hour of tablet use by these little ones is associated with 15.6 minutes less total sleep per night, which adds up to 95 hours of less sleep a year. 'The effects of poor sleep associated with pervasive tablet use among pre-school-age children can lead to short and long term health consequences including obesity; reduced dexterity; decreased attention span and concentration; poor appetite control; increase in aggressive and antisocial behaviour; developmental delays; reduced immunity; and poor mental health. Also, when little ones do not get enough shut-eye, they can become cranky and moody.
Children these days are starting school at the age of five and six years with the communication skills of two- and three-year-olds, presumably because their parents or caregivers have been “pacifying” them with ipads rather than talking to them.
We see kids hypnotically staring at glowing screens in restaurants, in playgrounds and elsewhere and the numbers are growing. Clinical research in this area correlates screen tech with disorders like
FOR BABIES IN PARTICULAR, THE LACK OF SLEEP IN THOSE EARLY MONTHS AND YEARS CAN IMPAIR BRAIN DEVELOPMENT. THE TROUBLE IS THAT EVERY ADDITIONAL HOUR OF TABLET USE BY THESE LITTLE ONES IS ASSOCIATED WITH 15.6 MINUTES LESS TOTAL SLEEP PER NIGHT, WHICH ADDS UP TO 95 HOURS OF LESS SLEEP A YEAR.
ADHD, addiction, anxiety, depression, increased aggression, and even psychosis. Recent studies show that too much of exposure to screen can cause neurological harm to the developing brain of a young person in a similar way that cocaine addiction can. Light emissions from these electronic devices can disrupt the body’s naturally occurring circadian rhythm, increasing alertness and suppressing the release of the hormone melatonin, which is important for regulating our sleep cycle; these screens also prevent the toddlers from interactions with parents; siblings and other kids.
This may impede language, social and emotional development. It may affect children’s development of insights, empathy, ways of knowing themselves, and connecting with relationships. Being sedentary is not good for toddlers and they should be encouraged to investigate their surroundings. If not they will be getting most of their stimulations from screen without building their bodies through physical play. Studies show that children ages between 3 to 5 whose parents read to them through electronic books had lower reading comprehension compared to physical books. Part of the reason is that the bells and whistles from books in electronic devices distract the kids and parents from focusing on the story. Tablets and smart phones take time away from other activities. Social and emotional intelligence are critical to success in life. Children “need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.” This is not possible today as we find that children would rather play smart phones and tablets than with their siblings or parents.
Some say that glowing screens might even be good for kids as a form of interactive educational tool.the positive impacts of touch screen use among toddlers include improvements in their motor skills which means that they are able to stack blocks earlier. Some educationists say that “until we know more about how touch screens affect sleep, they shouldn’t be banned completely, as there may also be cognitive benefits associated with their use.” Reena Dutta , a 34 year-old mother of two kids aged six and two, says, “I think toddlers are fascinated by touch screens because it offers them a sense of control that they rarely experience in their everyday lives. Also, the children’s games and shows are skillfully designed to enthrall them.” That being said, kids develop an aptitude for technology, which is an important skill now and more so in the future. It is therefore reasonable for the kids to explore this world at an early age. Tablets and smart phones offer an opportunity for the children to learn and stimulate their minds in a fun way and are also tools for them to communicate. Skype and Facetime are two great uses of screen for communicating with friends and relatives.