France has banned TV programs aimed at children under three and says babies and toddlers should not be exposed to screen time at all. “Television viewing hurts the development of children under 3 years old and poses a certain number of risks, encouraging passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitedness, troubles with sleep and concentration as well as dependence on screens,” the ruling said.
This was followed by a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics that children under two should not be exposed to any technology whatsoever.
These organizations go on to recommend that toddlers from 3-5 should only get an hour a day and children aged 6-18 should only get 2 hours of screen time a day. While TV has always been a popular way to occupy children, new handheld devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones have dramatically increased the amount of time children spend in front of screens.
The consequences of this increased screen time are serious for developing minds and bodies.
In their first two year, babies’ brains triple in size and the brain continues to develop until the child is 21. Brain growth is determined by environmental stimuli and when that is limited by technology, the child can suffer reduced executive functionality, attention deficit, learning disorders, delayed cognitive development, inability to self-regulate and behavioral disorders.
Movement learning theory shows that movement enhances learning and memory. Now, one in three children are entering school with delayed physical development and an associated lack of attention and ability to learn which affects academic achievement and literacy.
Studies have found a correlation between obesity and too much screen time. A study by Feng (2011) found that children with a device in their bedrooms who were under 12 were 30% more likely to be obese.
A study by the Kaiser Foundation found that 75% of children between the ages of 9 and 10 are sleep deprived to the point where it affects their academic performance. This sleep deprivation is a direct consequence of too much screen time and TV.
A pruning of the neuronal tracks to the frontal cortex caused by too much exposure to technology can lead to attention deficits, reduced ability to concentrate and reduced memory in a phenomena known as digital dementia.
The radiation from technological devices (especially smart phones) has been shown to pose a health risk for all users.
It’s vitally important that you pay careful attention to the amount of screen time your children are exposed to in a day. You can set alarms on tablets, smartphones, computers and TVs which will turn these devices off once screen time limits have been reached. That way you don’t always have to be the bad guy and you can control screen time even when you are not there.