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How Screen Time Affects Your Kid’s Brain

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How Screen Time Affects Your Kid’s Brain

Ever wondered if all that screen time is negatively affecting your child’s brain? Bad news, I am afraid. According to all the experts, this electronic screen syndrome (ESS) is causing sleep deprivation, social isolation, behavior problems, and a hyper aroused nervous system.

Some paediatricians have estimated that up to 80% of the kids they are seeing who are being medicated for ADHD, anxiety, depression and mood swings do not have these disorders at all. There are simpler remedies like reducing screen time, for example. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on cutting down screen time (at present a whopping 7 hours a day) are listed here.

Parents and teachers have noticed how too much screen time is making kids surly, bored and are permanently “wired and tired”. But what is actually happening to the child’s brain? Researchers have shown that the frontal lobe development is actually being retarded by all this screen time. This is the part of the brain which is responsible for the child’s attention span, controlling emotions and empathic skills. Staying connected may mean that your child is becoming disconnected from real life!

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Let us look now at how screen time is affecting your child’s brain.

Screen time is interfering with brain development

It is scary to think that a child’s brain is growing at an enormous rate and in the first year of life, it actually grows by 300%. Now, let the baby look at a ball rolling across a tablet screen. It is a two dimensional process and there is no tactile or other stimuli. Let the child play with a real ball and she will experience three dimensions, the movement, grab it, touch it or even try to eat it. The child is experiencing the real world and that can never be replaced by what is happening on a screen.

Screen time is delaying learning to talk

The best way to get a child to talk is by interacting and talking to him. The kid can watch the facial expressions, smile, hear the tone of voice, experiment with the sounds and notice the body language. All these are essential and complex processes in learning to talk. No screen, game or video can replace the joy of learning from human interaction. A robot might, but let’s not go there!

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Screen time can reduce the number of words a child learns

Did you know that a parent uses 940 words an hour when chatting to a toddler? Guess what happens when the TV is on. The number of words the parent uses falls to 770. That means the toddler is learning fewer words over time.

Screen time can affect a child’s physical and mental health

There are lots of studies that show that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for a child’s or teen’s physical health. One study shows that watching more than 2 hours of TV a day led to poor physical fitness, lower self-esteem and poorer academic achievement.

What can we do as parents?

There are innumerable factors such as the home environment, social economic status and school which can also negatively impact a child’s development. But one inescapable fact is that too much screen time is preventing our kids from doing sports, reading, playing outdoors, and talking (and fighting!) with siblings.

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Reducing screen time is one suggestion which does not cost you a cent. At the worst, nothing will change although it is difficult to imagine that things might be worse.

An excellent book to help you actually carry out this is Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time by Dr. Victoria Dunckley. She recommends that parents implement a strict electronic ‘fast’ just for a few weeks. There can be a dramatic improvement in sleep quality, mood, focus and behavior.

Many parents will recoil from the idea of having to stop their children using cell phones and laptops for a while. The book is full of practical suggestions on how to do this. The rewards are well worth the initial effort and struggle.

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Featured photo credit: iPad screen time/woodleywonderworks via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

How to Help Your Child to Get Better Grades

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How to Help Your Child to Get Better Grades

Children are most likely to say that they want to just lounge around or rest for a while after spending hours listening to lecture after lecture from their teachers. There is nothing wrong with this if they had a rough day.

What’s disturbing, is if they deliberately stay away from schoolwork or procrastinate when it comes to reviewing for their tests or completing an important science project.

When it seems that it is becoming a habit for your child to put off school work, it’s time for you to step in and help your child develop good study habits to get better grades. It is important for you to emphasize to your child the importance of setting priorities early in life. Don’t wait for them to flunk their tests, or worse, fail in their subjects before you talk to them about it.

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You can help your children hurdle their tests with these 7 tips:

1. Help them set targets

Ask your child what they want to achieve for that particular school year. Tell them to set a specific goal or target. If they say, “I want to get better grades,” tell them to be more specific. It will be better if they say they want to get a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Having a definite target will make it easier for them to undertake a series of actions to achieve their goals, instead of just “shooting for the moon.”

2. Preparation is key

At the start of the school year, teachers provide an outline of a subject’s scope along with a reading list and other course requirements. Make sure that your child has all the materials they need for these course requirements. Having these materials on hand will make sure that your child will have no reason to procrastinate and give them the opportunity to study in advance.

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3. Teach them to mark important dates

You may opt to give them a small notebook where they can jot down important dates or a planner that has dates where they can list their schedule. Ask them to show this to you so you can give them “gentle reminders” to block off the whole week before the dates of an exam. During this week, advise your child to not schedule any social activity so they can concentrate on studying.

4. Schedule regular study time

Encourage your child to set aside at least two hours every day to go through their lessons. This will help them remember the lectures for the day and understand the concepts they were taught. They should be encouraged to spend more time on subjects or concepts that they do not understand.

5. Get help

Some kids find it hard to digest or absorb mathematical or scientific concepts. Ask your child if they are having difficulties with their subjects and if they would like to seek the help of a tutor. There is nothing wrong in asking for the assistance of a tutor who can explain complex subjects.

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6. Schedule some “downtime”

Your child needs to relax from time to time. During his break, you can consider bringing your child to the nearest mall or grocery store and get them a treat. You may play board games with them during their downtime. The idea is to take his mind off studying for a limited period of time.

7. Reward your child

If your child achieves their goals for the school year, you may give them a reward such as buying them the gadget they have always wanted or allowing them to vacation wherever they want. By doing this, you are telling your child that hard work does pay off.

Conclusion

You need to take the time to monitor your child’s performance in school. Your guidance is essential to helping your child realize the need to prioritize their school activities. As a parent, your ultimate goal is to expose your child to habits that will lay down the groundwork for their future success.

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Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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