Negative Effects of Screen Time

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Introduction

The general idea behind the effects of screen-time come from how technology has taken over most mediums of learning, and the idea of placing the boundary between how much of it is okay and how much is not. Screen-time can be anything from phones, tablets, computers, video games, televisions, etc. As these types of technology advance, so does learning and both often overlap in certain aspects, however, it can be highly detrimental for the development of children.

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This is important because a child between birth and 3 years is going through highly critical brain development and screen-time during this stage can create difficulties in further development. Whether or not technology exists during these critical years is not the issue, but in fact the ways in which quality of content and quantity is executed. However, as children grow older, the less it is crucial to heavily monitor their screen-time. This is why any form of screen-time within birth to age 3 should be eliminated or carefully administered.

The controversial topic on how and why technology has been an issue for the developmental years of infants, toddlers, and early preschool aged children has been existent throughout many years that technology has innovated. Modern culture technology is usually viewed negatively in early childhood development and everyday educators are trying to find ways in which parents and schools can use it effectively within the classroom and home environments. The dilemma is not that technology is bad or should be relinquished completely from children’s lives, but moreover that it should be taken into consideration what it can cause as a long-term effect. The use of technology can either have a positive effect or a negative effect depending on the quality of the content. Given that quality of content is important, the quantity is just as relevant as well.

Therefore, the relationship between these two play a huge role in the outcomes of early childhood. With this taken into consideration, another important point to reflect on is what are they watching and what are they learning?

From smartphones to tablets, e-books and more, the rapid increase of market in technology has taken over the lives of many who posses them. It has been both a positive and negative journey of innovation but the debate still stands on how is this influencing the lives of children? When becoming a parent, there also comes that underlying responsibility of making black or white decisions on many different things. For instance, choosing breast milk or formula, spanking or no spanking, immunizations: to do them or not? Nonetheless, another important issue to discuss in the twenty-first century era is frankly whether or not to use screen-time as a form of pastime in the daily life of a young child.

To this date, there is no evidence that screen-time has any real benefit for infants and toddlers, but that there is evidence to prove that it can be harmful to their development. In reality, children between the ages of birth to age 3 need a few things that are crucial for optimal healthy growth. Children should be dedicated to playing with nature, doing hands-on activities, creative play, and face-to-face interactions with loving adults.

The use of technology in infants, toddlers, and preschool age children is important because children in these early stages are beginning to develop in critical areas of the brain. They are beginning to understand themselves, others, and the world around them. When screen-time is placed in the middle of those years, it can be detrimental to their healthy growth. Parents should be aware of the issue and at least have knowledge of how to properly monitor their screen-time. The purpose of this issue is to educate parents, teachers, or caregivers about why screen-time should be remotely removed or extremely limited in the lives of very young children and if not removed, how they can effectively use it so that it won’t negatively affect their development in the long run.

In order to understand why technology is unhealthy in the lives of early childhood, it is important to know what an infant, toddler, and preschooler needs in order to have a healthy development. A newborn baby’s brain is composed of millions of neurons that are constantly connecting with other neurons and some are not. As repeated experiences happen within that baby’s life, these connections become stronger and as the baby grows, these early experiences literally shape the child’s behavior, habits, values, and responses to future experiences.

Neuroscience discoveries have proven that these early experiences are critical because they are always ongoing and evolving which, begin before birth and continues into adulthood. On the other hand, the synaptic connections that are not used are removed completely. This is vital because it means that the way children are spending their time can have a consequence in their brain development.

Given that the child is spending large amounts of time in front of a screen, the consequence of it does not fall short. The more time a young child spends in front of a screen, the more they will watch later on, and the more difficult it will be to turn off as they become older. The reason for this is because of a biological substance called dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, reward, and alertness. This chemical is not only released after the consumption of some addictive drugs, but also during the active use of video games, which is the reason why some children are believed to be addicted to video games.

Instead of having children addicted to screen time, the addiction should be spilled over to more productive, educational, and life-long skills. Giving babies books and reading to them over time will increase their interest in reading literacy skills. Also, opportunities to play sports or physical activity will want them joining teams, which helps with social skills. There are many alternatives to screen time and doing them can truly change a child’s life.

In addition to watching excessive amounts of screen-time, there are other negative effects that come with introducing it to a young child’s life. It diminishes interactions with adults, reduces learning and school performance, increases chances of childhood obesity, and may cause sleep disturbance. Consequently enough, when young children are watching television with other adults or other children, they are spending less time engaged in conversation and developing social skills. In fact, new technologies such as e-books take away from parent-child bonding with traditional books that encourage literacy skills. According to [NAEYC and Fred Rogers’ Center Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs] position statement, technology is effective if it is active, hands-on, engaging, empowering, and child-controlled (Sharkins, Newton, Albaiz, & Ernest, 2015, p. 439).

Findings also touched on the opposite side of the issue by giving parents, caregivers and educators a guideline of how to facilitate positive viewing habits for young children with five simple steps. In conjunction to their conclusions, studies also found how technologies in early childhood settings can actually tribute to positive learning outcomes through play. These ideas overlap by reminding twenty-first century teachers and caregivers that the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) actually encourages teachers to use technology to benefit children.

Unfortunately, this idea has not been implemented because American society is not focusing on teaching appropriate uses of technology in early childhood settings, even though there are ideal ways to do so (Parette, Quesenberry, & Blum).
Again, children from birth to age 3 need to be playing with nature, doing hands-on activities, creative play, and face-to-face interactions with loving adults. Any early child educator understands these needs, but as parents, sometimes it is necessary to understand them as well. Children need to spend much of their time developing and fulfilling these needs. When children spend most of their time, however, engaged in video games, television shows, or phone apps, they take away from these important lifelong ramifications and instead develop unhealthy habits. Having a strong foundation in the early years will reveal positive results later on in life and building a weak foundation will just do the opposite.

Conclusion

In conclusion, infants, toddlers, and preschool age children should be spending their developmental years focusing on hands-on creativity, time with nature, and face-to-face interactions with loving adults. They need to be physically active and learn to develop healthy sleeping and eating habits. If screen time is given, it should be carefully monitored by quantity and quality, which means giving them a restrictive time daily and also administering educational content that is productive in their learning. Whether at home or in school, screen time is a chance for technology to be positively effective in the crucial developmental years of all children, no matter what age.

References

  • Anderson, S. E., Economos, C.D., & Must, A. (2008). Active play and screen time in US children aged 4 to 11 years in relation to sociodemographic and weight status characteristics: A nationally representative cross-sectional analysis. BMC Public Health, 8(1), 1-13. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-8-366
  • Parette, H. P., Quesenberry, A. C., & Blum, C. (2009). Missing the boat with technology usage in early childhood settings: A 21st century view of developmentally appropriate practice. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(5), 335-343. doi: 10.1007/s10643-009-0352-x
  • Pohan, C. A., Mathison, C. (2007). Television: Providing powerful multicultural lessons inside and outside of school. Multicultural Perspectives, 9(1), 19-25. doi: 10.1080/15210960701333757
  • Sharkins, K. A., Newton, A. B., Albaiz, N. E., & Ernest, J. M. (2015). Preschool childrens exposure to media, technology, and screen time: Perspectives of caregivers from three early childcare settings. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(5), 437-444. doi: 10.1007/s10643-015-0732-3
  • Veldhuis, L., Grieken, A.V., Renders, C. M., Hirasing, R. A., & Raat, H. (2014). Parenting style, the home environment, and screen time of 5-year-old children; The ?be active, eat right’ study. PLOS ONE, 9(2), 1-9. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088486

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