By now it is common knowledge that the digital era came with the good and the bad. Cutting across all social backgrounds, the most pronounced disadvantage of digitalization and technology, including smartphones and tablets, involves mental health. From social phobia, anxiety, depression to other issues like autism, bipolar disorder, paranoia or acute stress disorder. Studies have acknowledged that these psychological disorders can develop by the time one is an adolescent due to smartphones.
Nevertheless, did you know that these smart devices can cause mental health issues to kids as young as two? Scientists warn that even though teenagers are the ones at risk of these smart devices, hours of staring at the screen can make children as young as two anxious or depressed. That said, let’s look at what else could go wrong if a two-year-old spends too much time on a smartphone.
The Mail reports that effects include; developmental issues like less curiosity, loss of coordination, behavioural issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, mood disorders, decreased impulse control, low self-esteem, less emotional stability and less productivity. In addition, it becomes hard for these children to complete tasks.
Sadly, only 20% of children and adolescent get diagnosed with mental issues. However, a fact remains that children under the age of 10, including toddlers, can also be affected by mental disorders if pre-disposed to smart devices. This is because their brain is still developing.
To make sure that kids are not affected experts have advised that children should cut down the amount of time spent on social media, watching TV or just surfing online. This includes denying kids screen time when they are eating, studying or socializing. Otherwise, they stand a risk of becoming smartphone zombies who spend five or more hours gaping at tablets and smartphones. This leaves them at the mercies of mental disorders and other mental health issues.
Physical activities like playing sports and developmental games are recommended as they promote both the physical and cognitive health of a child.
An established Professor Jean Twenge advises that screen time for children aged 2-5 years old, should be limited to one hour in a day. For children above 5 years and teenagers, two hours of smartphone use in a day is safe. As moderate screen time use – stipulated at four hours in a day – has also been linked to low psychological well being.
Twenge’s research has further shown that a link exists between screen time and psychological well being. Teenagers who spend time online or on social media have lower self-esteem than those who spend time watching television.
In 2018 the World Health Organisation included gaming disorder in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases, officially recognizing it as an addiction. That said, it would be better to debunk on some of the myths and misconception associated with mental health, so as to cater to our children’s needs accordingly.
You need to watch this interview of Lorna Muthamia with Caroline Mutoko to see how screens affect your child.
Featured image via health line