Parenting is hard and the recent Covid-19 pandemic has not made the situation any easier. It can be difficult to juggle working from home and taking care of the kids at the same time. As we adjust to this new situation, digital devices may have been a god-send in your homes – after all, they are able to instantly capture the little ones’ attention and guarantee that you have a peaceful precious couple of hours.
If turning to screens to act as digital pacifiers so that you can have a meeting uninterrupted may have become the go-to move for you, read on to find out why you should re-consider this tactic, and find other sources of distraction for your children.
1. Digital device use may be leading to a sleep deprivation crisis
Sufficient sleep is extremely important for everyone, but especially for kids, since they require sleep to grow and to stay healthy. During sleep, their bodies get the rest it needs to repair themselves, and is also when regulation of the immune system occurs, which is needed to make them less susceptible to diseases and illnesses.
On average, toddlers (around 1 to 2 years old) need as much as 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day, and pre-schoolers (around 3 to 5 years old) need 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day for them to grow and develop properly, but screen time may be shaving off hours of that much-needed sleep time.
Digital devices emit blue light, which is a powerful suppressant of melatonin, the hormone that the body produces to make both adults and children feel sleepy at night. When kids use technology just before naptime or before bed, and are exposed to the blue light emitted by the screens, their body interprets the presence of blue light as it being day time, which makes them more alert and wide awake. So even after shutting their devices off, they may still be restless and will take a longer time to fall asleep.
Not only does using too much screen time lead to children not getting the necessary hours of sleep every day, it also has the potential to lead to childhood obesity.
If playing outdoors on the streets or in the playground after school with your friends sound like an accurate depiction of your childhood, then you are aware of how much movement and activity you used to get every day. Unfortunately, the use of most digital devices is sedentary, because they require children to sit down or be still while using them.
Children need to be active, and usually love to jump, run or engage in other physical activity if given the chance. They need to be given the time and space to do so without any tech disruptions, because as soon as the devices make an appearance, the normal desire to be active vanishes and they are content to sit for hours on end. This lack of physical activity may in turn lead to obesity.
3. Loss of social skills
Kids who spend too much time using digital devices may lack the social and people skills needed for them to develop into well-rounded teens and eventually, adults.
The early years are critical for children to spend quality face-to-face time with their parents because this time together teaches children to learn how to interact both verbally and nonverbally with others, and allows them to pick up on social cues that they may be missing out on otherwise.
You may have heard of pandemic babies (babies born during the COVID-19 pandemic) and how they are used to seeing people wearing masks when out in public all the time. Especially with the pandemic, children’s exposure to the world and other humans has been severely limited, so most of their social conditioning has to be done at home.
Digital devices are not inherently bad, but an over-dependency on them may have negative consequences for your child
Technology can be an amazing tool if used correctly, and as parents, it is your job to cultivate a healthy relationship between your children and digital devices. Using devices as a digital pacifier may be a quick fix for the present time, but in the long run, this will lead to a whole host of other problems for you and your family.
Emphasise the importance of device-free activities and enforce device-use guidelines in your home so that your little ones are able to reap all the wonderful benefits that modern technology has to offer, while not suffering from the consequences of excessive screen time.