By Waheeda Essop (Occupational Therapist)

So my child spends a good amount of time on the tablet

What’s the big deal?

When we were kids we usually spent every waking moment playing, often outside and usually with friends. With the surge of screentime it seems that all kids want to do ….is get their hands on a screen.

But is this fun accessible gadget really so bad for children?

In early years a child’s brain develops more than at any other time in life. The quality of a child’s experiences in the first few years of life helps shape how their brain develops. Development of the brain occurs with the child’s experiences of life activity….specifically activities that require movement and sensory involvement. 

When a child is actively playing on a screen, his sensory involvement is limited to visual stimuli whilst his cognitive engagement is confined to a small area of the brain. And most importantly, his motor movement is restricted to an uncoordinated movement of the finger tips. So when a child is on the screen….very little brain development actually occurs.

Essentially excessive time spent of the screen is in fact ‘stolen time’, away from other activities or tasks that are likely to be more beneficial.

Children can preferably spend a good chunk of their free time in play involving toys, other children and physical activities. This welcomes engagement of numerous sensory systems, stimulation of motor development and in turn cognitive development or brain growth.

It is thus prescribed that we limit screentime to 60 minutes a day on tablets or phones, for children under 6 years of age. For older children 2 hours per day is a safe limit. These can be divided into short sessions throughout the day. The sessions give parents better control and these can be used in reward/discipline mechanisms. A shorter session is also beneficial on a brain level as it combats the negative effects of screen usage.

The world of technology has become a requisite tool in today’s world. For our young ones however, their merits are sometimes contrary to actualising their potential. We can as parents try our best to adapt and juggle all its facets to create a solid foundation for future years.

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