Screen time linked to health issues

Several risks

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Children’s access to and ownership of mobile gadgets have grown substantially in recent years. Studies have demonstrated the impact of excessive screen time on lifestyle that include academic, behavioural and mental-health issues.

The ‘problematic use of mobile phone’ in concept is excessive use of screen media that interferes with a child’s well-being. It’s determined not only by the number of hours of use, but also the child’s preoccupation with the use of technology.

Signs include difficulty in logging out, the tendency to spend ‘just a few minutes more’ online, the inability to rationalise the use of such devices despite academic obligations, sleep disturbance, decreased social interaction, irritability, anger outbursts when technology is out of reach or denied. 

Use of technology for more than two-and-a-half hours per day is strongly linked to physical health issues and disturbance in cognitive functions. However, it requires a large-sample study validation.

As per recent surveys, 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents in the country are not sufficiently physically active due to increased screen time.

Users who fall asleep while using mobile phones also complain of 60-90 minutes loss of sleep.

According to the new World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, children between two and five years should be limited to only 60 minutes of screen time per day.

Children under two, it says, should not spend any time with screens at all.

The WHO also says, children below one should be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake. 

Children between ages three and four should spend 180 minutes taking up physical activities.

Teenagers are recommended to take a break every 30 minutes while using a gadget by blinking and also by rotating the head. Ditch the screen at least 30 to 40 minutes before sleeping time.

Every family should build a suitable atmosphere where such problems can be talked about.

(The author is Professor of Clinical Psychology, SHUT clinic, Nimhans, Bengaluru)

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