In As­so­ci­a­tion With

7 Days in Dubai - - SPECIAL REPORT - For more in­for­ma­tion visit www. kings­

ur chil­dren now grow up con­nected from a very young age. Even as tod­dlers, most in­tu­itively know how to use a touch­screen. Tech­nol­ogy and con­nec­tiv­ity are part of the fabric of their lives.

But, ex­perts warn that chil­dren - and adults - must con­trol the time they spend ‘plugged in’ as too much time on­line, or star­ing at a screen, can cause a range of phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal health is­sues.

Writ­ing in Psychology To­day re­cently, Dr Vic­to­ria L Dunck­ley quoted ex­ten­sive stud­ies on teenagers and time spent on tech. Her sum­mary was con­cern­ing.

“Ex­ces­sive screen time ap­pears to im­pair brain struc­ture and func­tion. Much of the dam­age oc­curs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which un­der­goes mas­sive changes from pu­berty un­til the mid-twen­ties. Frontal lobe de­vel­op­ment, largely de­ter­mines suc­cess in ev­ery area of life - from aca­demic or ca­reer suc­cess to re­la­tion­ship skills.”

Mean­while, nu­mer­ous stud­ies have found that com­pul­sive in­ter­net use in­ter­feres with a child’s school­work and per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, while over-use of de­vices like iPads at a young age can harm brain de­vel­op­ment and cause back is­sues. It’s enough to make you want to put your child on tech lock­down.

Of course, that’s not re­al­is­tic, and nor does it take into ac­count the myr­iad ben­e­fits of tech­nol­ogy, par­tic­u­larly in terms of ed­u­ca­tion. But time ‘on-screen’ does need to be man­aged at all stages of child de­vel­op­ment.

The Amer­i­can Academy of Pae­di­atrics ad­vises against tech­nol­ogy use by chil­dren younger than two years old and rec­om­mends lim­it­ing older chil­dren’s screen time to no more than one or two hours a day. Part of this time should be for ed­u­ca­tional pur­poses, rather than just play­ing games or watch­ing videos.

Alan Williamson, Prin­ci­pal at Kings’ School Al Bar­sha, be­lieves achiev­ing the right bal­ance is some­thing that schools and par­ents can work on to­gether. Tech­nol­ogy in ed­u­ca­tion is use­ful and ex­cit­ing, he says, but should not be the only fo­cus.

“There is a place for tech­nol­ogy but not all of the time,” he says. “At Kings’, we work on find­ing the cor­rect bal­ance be­tween us­ing tech­nol­ogy and us­ing pa­per and pens. We would en­cour­age par­ents to find that same bal­ance in the home.

“Some­times stu­dents will need to use tech­nol­ogy in their home­work and it will ben­e­fit their learn­ing, but some­times the tra­di­tional pen and pa­per still has value.”

Man­ag­ing that bal­ance in the home re­quires com­mu­ni­ca­tion and bound­aries.

“Talk to your kids about ev­ery­thing and set bound­aries from an early age,” ad­vises cy­ber safety ex­pert Su­san McLean.

Set rules on tech time and en­cour­age other ac­tiv­i­ties that get your child to move and be out­side. You also need to limit ac­cess to screens. “Make sure that there is no in­ter­neten­abled tech­nol­ogy in the bed­room at night,” Su­san urges. “For two rea­sons: One, they won’t sleep. They will wake up and check their phones and you won’t know how much time they are spend­ing do­ing that. Two, they will suf­fer from over-stim­u­lated brain. The screen on an iPad, iPhone or com­puter is dif­fer­ent from a tele­vi­sion and can mess with a child’s brain dif­fer­ently.” What Su­san is re­fer­ring to is what sci­en­tists de­scribe as “short-wave­length­en­riched” light from th­ese de­vices, which means they emit more blue light than nat­u­ral light. That blue light in­hibits the pro­duc­tion of the hor­mone mela­tonin, which helps us to fall asleep. Re­searchers in Nor­way, who stud­ied 10,000 16 to 19-year-olds, ad­vised that chil­dren should ‘switch off’ at least an hour be­fore go­ing to bed af­ter their study showed that the longer a young per­son spent look­ing at a screen be­fore go­ing to bed, the worse qual­ity sleep they had. Su­san says this is where set­ting a good ex­am­ple is re­ally im­por­tant. “If you are ex­plain­ing to your teenager why they can’t be us­ing What­sApp last thing at night, you’d bet­ter make sure you’re not do­ing so ei­ther,” she says. “If you tell your chil­dren to put their de­vices out of the bed­room at night, then that means you fol­low suit. Don’t sleep with your phone un­der your pil­low and tell your kids they can’t.”

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