Screen risks for kids
Spending too much time in front of the screen is having a devastating effect on the lives of children, says a prominent pediatrician from Sweden.
‘Many children spend most of their waking hours in front of the screen,’ said Professor Hugo Lagercrantz in January, writing in the journal of the Swedish Medical Association. This includes time spent on DVDs, computers, laptops, smart phones, video games and TVs—often in multiple rooms of a house.
Prof Lagercrantz said statistics show that children in the US spend six hours a day at a screen, while those in Europe use the internet for about 12 hours a week. In addition, screen time is increasing as classrooms introduce electronic gadgets.
Despite the advantages that are claimed for children’s use of screen technologies, Prof Lagercrantz said that there are serious disadvantages that parents need to consider:
- Screen time increases inattention and distraction at school and may aggravate ADHD in children genetically predisposed to it;
- Spending too much time watching TV delays language development;
- Each hour of daily TV watching increases children’s body weight by 1 kg—and this increase is not just related to lack of exercise;
- Adolescent boys who watched more than three hours of TV a day had more criminal behaviour;
- Screen time reduces time for play which is important for developing creativity and social skills;
Screen viewing may reduce empathy which has decreased in the last 30 years.
Lagercrantz advises parents to restrict the amount of time children spend in front of electronic equipment. He says:
- children under 2 years of age should not watch TV or use tablets at all;
- two and three year-olds should spend minimal time in front of a screen;
- children aged 3-7 may spend up to 2 hours a day watching TV or a DVD that involves storytelling, accompanied by an adult;
- children aged 7-15 should spend no more than 3 hours a day watching TV or DVDs but then only on rare occasions;
- children should not have a TV in their bedroom and should not eat in front of the TV.
(Läkartidningen, 08.01.13, http://www.lakartidningen.se/07engine.php?articleId=19078– in Swedish)
from 'EMR and Health' March 2013, vol 9 no 1