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8 Reasons Why Children Should Not Use Handheld Devices Frequently

8 Reasons Why Children Should Not Use Handheld Devices Frequently

A pediatric occupational therapist, Cris Rowan, hit the headlines last summer when she made a plea for a total ban of handheld devices for all children under the age of twelve! You can imagine the reactions. It really got parents worked up. Of course, Rowan made some very valid points but the real solution is to allow kids to use these handheld devices, but not too often. As usual, the key is finding the right balance as there are all sorts of health and development issues. In this post I want to outline 8 reasons why children should not use these frequently. There is no need for a total ban, except for babies.

1. Children are not turning their brains on.

If you allow a kid to play with her phone, computer games or tablet all day long, what happens? The child will not get enough exercise. Physical exercise is not only good for building muscles but also essential for turning our brains on. This applies especially to children, as outlined by Dr. John Ratey of Harvard Medical School, in his famous book, Spark. The Naperville School District (IL) kids were able to score top grades in the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) tests because they were doing regular physical exercise. They came out at number one in science and sixth in math – worldwide! More physical exercise and less use of electronic devices will help to improve grades and also reduce behavior problems.

“What Naperville provides is a powerful case study on how aerobic activity can transform not only the body but also the mind. It also happens to be a wonderful template for reshaping our society.” – Dr. John Ratey

2. Children may be exposed to too much radiation.

The problem with using cell phones and also cordless phones too much is that the brain may be exposed to radiation and this has been linked to cancer. There are no conclusive studies on this but the American Cancer Society says it is advisable to limit cell phone use, especially among young children.

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The best solution is to encourage kids to make shorter phone calls and send more text messages. You could also take out a monthly subscription which will enable you to cut off your kid’s phone in the late evening and early morning. Set the example for your kids by encouraging them to take “tech time-out” especially at mealtimes. Everybody puts their phone in a designated place so that they actually get to talk to each other!

3. Children are not getting enough sleep.

When kids are allowed all their gadgets in the bedroom, this is a guarantee that the blue screen light is going to affect their sleep. There are loads of studies on this and one shows that the kids who have been playing on their tablets or phones just before sleeping, take longer to get off to sleep and do not sleep so well, either.

There is an easy solution to this in that parents can ban all devices from their kids’ bedrooms and make sure that they use their computer time in the common area before actually going to bed. Encourage the reading of bedtime stories and switching off TV one hour before bedtime.

4. Children will take ages to do homework.

Kids might consider multi-tasking cool when they have to do homework. Checking their Facebook account and emails are just part of the normal distracted process. But studies show that it takes four times longer to recognize each new activity, than if you were just concentrating on one task.

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Parents differ in their approaches. Some parents just ban the use of phones during homework and when teens protest that their friends are allowed to do so, they just say “our house, our rules.”

I favor the “interval training” approach. Here teens are asked to try half an hour of homework with no distractions at all from any device. After that, they are allowed to check Facebook and so on. But they quickly realize how much more efficient they are when they are not distracted. This may work better than having a total ban. We also have to keep in mind that tablets are really useful for some homework tasks and more and more students are using them efficiently. Maybe we just have to draw the line at social media and text messaging.

5. Toddlers’ brain development may be at risk.

Dr. Jenny Radesky works at the Developmental –Behavioral Pediatrics Department at the University of Boston. Her research has shown that allowing these toddlers of two or three years of age to play excessively with these gadgets will affect their cognitive development negatively. At this age they need to develop motor, visual and spatial skills which are essential for healthy development. Even more alarming is the practice of handing a device to a child who is having a tantrum! This is no substitute for learning how to interact and control strong emotions.

The best solution is probably to ban devices for these babies and toddlers. They do not need to update their status on Facebook just yet! Parents should ensure that they have plenty of normal kids’ toys and games which will help them to develop their manual dexterity. A touch screen cannot do that.

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6. Children may be at increased risk of mental illness.

Can it really be true that increased rates of child depression, attention disorders, bipolar disorder and other mental health issues are due to excessive use of handheld devices? Studies on this have revealed that this exaggerated use may indeed be a cause. Aggression and problematic child behavior are the usual manifestations that there may be a problem.

How about a screen-free day for everyone in the family to help reduce the risks? Another idea is to make sure that you can monitor your child’s use and set limits accordingly. Obviously you will be setting the example by being a role model and not listening to your child with one ear while the other is glued to your smartphone!

7. Children may become couch potatoes.

It does not take rocket science to understand that too much sedentary activity which is mostly watching TV, surfing, chatting and gaming will lead to obesity. There are countless studies on this one. First, TV ads are full of low nutrient and high calorie foods which are aimed at a young audience, as evidenced by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report. A lot of these commercials are now shown on smartphones and tablets.

More time with these devices will lead to fewer physical activities and sports. This means that kids are just not getting enough exercise and also they are consuming far too many calories. Wrong food choices aggravate the problem.

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The best approach to take is to ensure that all the family are taking part in some physical activity whether it is just playing sports, jogging or walking the dog. It becomes a ritual and there should be set times for this. This helps to get the child weaned off those electronic devices. A total ban never makes sense as the kid will discover ways round that.

8. Children may suffer from eye strain.

It is now becoming more and more common for children to suffer from eye strain after staring at screens for hours and hours. This is sometimes known as computer vision syndrome. Watch out for dry, red and sore eyes. Sometimes, children may experience blurry vision and have problems with words moving on the screen because their eyes are not properly aligned. Eye fatigue, focus issues and even double vision are other problems as reported by the Singapore Health Xchange.

You can avoid eye problems setting in at an early age by making sure that sessions involving near screen work are limited to 30 minutes a time. Make sure that there are plenty of breaks and that outdoor activity is not neglected.

Who wants to raise a child who is attached to a screen? At the other extreme, we do not want our kids to miss out on connecting with our fascinating world. They can chat to grandparents on Skype, play games, learn facts, read and socialize. We just have to make sure that they get the balance right.

Featured photo credit: Kids with Education Tablet Computers/ Inter Free Press 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 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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