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Detoxing childhood

ANN/THE KATHMANDU POST – Screens have become an integral aspect of our daily existence, captivating individuals of all ages, from adults to children. Yet, it’s imperative to acknowledge that an excessive amount of time spent in front of screens can have repercussions on a child’s emotional well-being and overall development.

Consider a scenario where a child dedicates their entire day to watching cartoons and playing video games. Such prolonged exposure to screens may impede meaningful interactions with real people, creating challenges for kids to actively participate in conversations and engage in real-world play. This overreliance on screens can also negatively impact their ability to concentrate in school and result in mood swings when it’s time to disconnect.

Psychologist Srijana Sherchan gives us insights into this issue.

WHAT ARE SOME COMMON CONCERNS REGARDING CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH AND EXCESSIVE SCREEN TIME?

One common concern related to excessive screen time in children is the potential impact on their emotional development.

When children spend prolonged periods in front of screens, such as smartphones or computers, they may miss out on opportunities for face-to-face interactions. These interactions are crucial for developing empathy, understanding emotions and building social skills.

Consequently, excessive screen time can make children less emotionally aware. They become accustomed to devices that don’t respond like humans, leading to a lack of patience and a preference for solitude with screens.

This can hinder their ability to form meaningful relationships and navigate the complexities of human emotions.

PHOTO: ENVATO
PHOTO: FREEPIK

HOW DOES EXCESSIVE SCREEN TIME AFFECT A CHILD’S OVERALL WELL-BEING AND DEVELOPMENT?

Excessive screen time can have a profound impact on a child’s overall well-being and development. It often causes children to prioritise screens over their basic responsibilities and activities. For example, they might neglect homework, chores or physical activities in favour of screen-based entertainment. This neglect can negatively affect their mental and physical health.

Children who spend excessive time on screens may struggle with focus, concentration and logical reasoning. They may also experience disrupted sleep patterns due to late-night screen use, contributing to fatigue and reduced cognitive functioning. Moreover, a sedentary lifestyle associated with excessive screen time can lead to physical health issues like obesity.

WHAT SIGNS SHOULD PARENTS WATCH FOR CONCERNING THEIR CHILD’S SCREEN TIME?

Parents should be alert to various signs indicating problematic screen time habits in their children. A big one is constant and excessive usage. If a child is glued to screens all day, without breaks for other activities or responsibilities, this consistent behaviour can be worrying.

Neglecting important tasks such as schoolwork or household chores in favour of screen time is another warning sign. Children who struggle to focus on non-screen tasks, displaying restlessness or irritability when not engaged with screens, may also indicate an unhealthy reliance on digital devices.

Emotional changes, such as sudden mood swings or resistance and being upset when asked to reduce screen time, can further highlight problematic screen habits.

HOW CAN PARENTS HELP THEIR CHILDREN DEVELOP HEALTHY SCREEN TIME HABITS?

To encourage healthy screen time habits in their children, parents can implement clear guidelines. Setting specific and realistic limits on screen time is crucial. Children should have allocated time for activities like homework, physical exercise, reading, hobbies and family interactions, ensuring a balanced routine.

Promoting diverse experiences beyond screens is equally important. Children should engage in activities that support holistic development. Participating in joint activities with children strengthens the parent-child bond and offers alternatives to screen-based entertainment.

Additionally, creating screen-free zones within the home, such as the dining room or bedrooms, facilitates family interactions and promotes healthier sleep patterns. Perhaps most importantly, parents must lead by example, demonstrating healthy screen habits themselves. Children are more likely to adhere to guidelines when they see their parents practising the same behaviour, emphasising the importance of parental role modelling in shaping children’s screen time habits.

WHAT BENEFITS CAN A DIGITAL DETOX OFFER CHILDREN?

Implementing a digital detox or setting screen time limits can have numerous benefits for children. One major benefit is improved physical health.

Reducing sedentary behaviour linked to excessive screen time, children are encouraged to be more active, promoting their overall fitness.

Additionally, limiting screen time can lead to enhanced mental well-being. Children often experience improved attention spans, reduced stress levels and better sleep quality, leading to better emotional stability. Another notable advantage is the strengthening of family bonds. By reducing individual screen time, families have more opportunities to engage in shared activities, fostering stronger relationships and communication. Academic performance can also see positive impacts; with reduced distractions, children may allocate more time and focus to their studies, potentially leading to improved grades.

Lastly, limiting screen time encourages children to explore other hobbies and activities, stimulating creativity and imagination.

Overall, implementing a digital detox or setting screen time limits ensures a more balanced, healthier lifestyle for children, positively influencing their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. – Anish Ghimire

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