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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 July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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