Dr Edalissa Kharraswai
Digital media has become a part and parcel of our life. Like adults, children too use it for entertainment, information, reassurance and comfort after stressful experience, overcoming boredom, etc. Excessive screen time has played a major role in the child’s social development skills and time management for studying. This article provides an overview about the effects of screen time in children, guidelines for reducing screen time and exploring homoeopathic indications.
KEYWORDS : Screen time, effects of screen time, guidelines for reducing screen time and homoeopathic management.
Screen time or digital engagement time is the total time spent per day in watching screens such as televisions, computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and video games. Digital media is a form of screen time and is referred to a group of internet–based applications.
In today’s digital age, children are growing up surrounded by screens, from smartphones and tablets to computers and televisions. Though technology offers numerous educational and recreational opportunities, concerns have been raised about the potential adverse effects of excessive screen time on children’s development and well-being.
At a national level more than 50% of Indian toddlers have been reported to have screen time of >2 hours. Studies have also shown that screen time exposure starts as early as 2 months of age and by 18 months almost all children are exposed to screen time.
There are certain factors that predispose a child to increase screen time.
|Factors associated with increase screen time in children|
|Child factors||Parent factors||Environmental factors|
|o Decreased daily sleep duration
o High sedentary activities
o Introduction of screen time at an early age
o Having meals while watching screen.
|o Higher parental screen time
o Maternal stress and higher working hours
o Children of first-time mothers
o Lack of parental knowledge, wrong attitude and belief
|o Easier access to digital media
o High background television time and mealtime television viewing
o Higher number of screen devices at home and presence of television in bedroom
ADVERSE EFFECTS OF SCREEN TIME
Screen time in children has escalated as much during the COVID pandemic time; one of the reasons being increased time availability at hand due to closure of schools, availability of screen at home, parental screen habits and being perceived as an easy option for knowledge gathering.
However certain drawbacks arise with excessive usage of screen time such as:
- Sleep disorders: A shorter and poor-quality sleep time along with sleep latency is seen in children with increased screen time; leading to disorders like obesity, decreased immunity poor growth poor school performances and mental health issues.
- Obesity: A decreased in physical activity, poor sleep quality and duration leading to increased out of time snacking, watching attractive food advertisements, leading to high intake of high calorie food and low nutrient food.
- Altered recognition and comprehension: Due to an early exposure to adult directed television and high background television leads to an increase in antisocial behavior, poor schooling performance and features of ADHD disorder.
- Physical effects: Due to wrong posture or sitting in one posture for a long time, predominately affecting cervical spine.
- Visual effects: Refractive errors, astigmatism, dryness of eyes, blurring itching and irritation.
- Psychological disorders: These include low self-esteem, extreme personalities (extrovert or introvert), substance abuse, violent behavior, increased smoking and alcohol consumption. Eating disorders like bulimia nervosa or binge eating.
- Cyberbullying: The perpetrators and the victim often known to each other and often follow a cycle of intention, repetition and power imbalance
- Sexting and pornography: It is leading to unhealthy sexual practices, low self-esteem and depression.
GUIDELINES FOR REDUCING SCREEN TIME
The Indian Academy of Paediatrics has put up certain guidelines regarding screen time and had provided recommendations for each child depending upon their age group.
A Study have shown that excessive use of digital media use by children and adolescents appears as a major factor which hamper the formation of psychophysiological resilience.
INDIAN ACADEMY OF PAEDIATRICS RECOMMENDATIONS (2021) ON SCREEN TIME AND DIGITAL MEDIA IN CHILDREN
The Indian academy of Paediatrics released its guidelines on screentime in December 2021.
Recommendations are provided for children (as per age group), parents, pediatricians and schools.
CHILDREN LESS THAN 2 YEARS
- Children below 2 years should not be exposed to any type of screen.
- Screen should not be used to facilitate feeding or calming a crying child
- Parents should ensure no incidental screen exposure in their presence or absence
- Kids should be involved in physical activities and other recreations to promote early childhood development.
CHILDREN 2-5 YEARS OF AGE
- Supervised educational screen time is permitted to NOT >1 hour, lesser the better and looking at only one screen at a time
- Screen media should not be used during meals, an hour before sleep or during surface travel.
- 3 hours of daily physical activity (including one hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity) and 10-14 hours of sleep is advocated.
- Media content should be supervised by the parents and caregivers to ensure educational, healthy and nonviolent media watching.
- Shared media watching (parents and children watching together, should be followed to increase interaction with the children.
CHILDREN 5-10 YEARS OF AGE
- Screen time should be limited to <2 hours/day including recreational and educational screen time.
- Exposure to screen time should monitored as to mainly limit to educational viewing with minimal recreational time
- Co-viewing is an advisable method to keep watch of the content, increases interaction with the child and ensure child safety and security.
- Independent screen devices should not be promoted and digital control device should be used.
- Screens should not be used as a source of entertainment when child feels bored.
- Children should be appreciated for appropriate use of screens and should be educated on how to decrease screen time.
- Children should not be allowed to use social media except for education or extracurricular activities.
- Children should have enough time for their self and family activities including at least 1 hour of physical activity (moderate to vigorous) and 9-12 hours of sleep.
CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS 10-18 YEARS OF AGE
- Screen time should be balanced with daily activities necessary for complete development including adequate sleep time, physical activity, sports time hobby time, family time, meal time and study time
- Healthy and safe use of screen should be taught and monitored. This includes:
- Avoiding media with violent or undesirable contents
- To know about cyber laws, media literacy and digital hygiene.
- Adolescent children should be monitored for a perpetrator or victim of cyberbullying, getting addicted to media or substance, cybersecurity and data privacy. This can be easily done by monitoring on emails, which are mostly linked with such sites.
- Academic performance should be observed to ensure it’s not getting compromised due to screen time.
- Parents should act as role-models, they should also be updated with technology and be friendly with children so that children can discuss any unwanted activity on screen.
HOMEOPATHIC INDICATIONS FOR SCREEN TIME EFFECTS:
While homeopathy cannot directly address screen time effects, it focuses on promoting holistic well-being and supporting the body’s natural healing processes. The following homeopathic indications may be considered for children dealing with the effects of excessive screen time:
- Stramonium: This remedy may be helpful for children experiencing nightmares or sleep disturbances due to excessive screen time exposure. It can also be used when children exhibit heightened anxiety or fearfulness as a result of their screen-related experiences.
- Calcarea carbonica: This remedy is indicated for children who become physically sluggish and gain weight due to sedentary screen time habits. It may also benefit those who experience digestive issues or recurrent colds associated with excessive screen use.
- Cina: When children display irritability, aggression, or difficulty in controlling impulses linked to excessive screen time, Cina can be considered. This remedy may help balance emotions and reduce behavioral challenges associated with digital overexposure.
- Nux vomica: This remedy is suitable for children who develop a habit of excessive screen time and subsequently experience restlessness, sleep disturbances, and difficulty concentrating. Nux vomica may support their ability to establish healthier screen usage patterns.
- Lycopodium: For children who experience impaired cognitive function and reduced self-confidence due to excessive screen time, Lycopodium may provide support. It is often indicated for memory issues, lack of focus, and difficulties with comprehension or mental clarity.
While technology has become an integral part of children’s lives, excessive screen time can have detrimental effects on their physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. However, it’s important to note that homeopathic indications mentioned above are not substitutes for healthy screen time management practices or professional medical advice. Limiting screen time, encouraging physical activity and social interactions, and promoting a balanced lifestyle are key factors in mitigating the potential negative effects of excessive screen time on children’s development.
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Dr. Edalissa Kharraswai
MD Scholar, Department of Paediatrics,
Father Muller Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital