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A Guide to Screen Time for Kids

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In the ever-evolving digital age, experts differ on the best time for screen exposure, but there's unanimous agreement on one crucial aspect: Babies and screens don't mix well. 

This article summarizes detailed guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), and a number of child health experts, shedding light on the potential risks associated with excessive screen time, especially for children.


So What is the Concern?

Experts raise concerns for several reasons. Excessive screen time leads to prolonged periods of inactivity, contributing to an unhealthy adult life. The WHO estimates that 5 million people die prematurely each year due to insufficient exercise, making this a significant worry. 

Additionally, mental and emotional growth can be adversely affected by prolonged exposure to digital devices, leading to serious issues like digital dementia, depression, and technology addiction.


Screens at Home

In households with kids, the serenity of radio silence is often replaced by the sounds of children's shows or distressing breakdowns. While technology can offer respite and calm chaotic situations, it's crucial to consider the potential dangers associated with improper screen usage, especially for young children.


Underlying EMF Radiation


Just as we childproof our homes to prevent accidents, it's essential to safeguard our children from the dangers of electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation emitted by screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reducing children's exposure to cell phones and devices emitting wireless radiation, emphasizing the unique vulnerability of children's growing minds and bodies.

EMF radiation, emitted by wireless devices, has been classified as a Class 2B carcinogen by the WHO. The Precautionary Principle suggests that, given the potential health concerns, mindful and safe use of technology is crucial. Children's thinner skulls and rapidly developing bodies make them more susceptible to EMF exposure, as confirmed by scientific studies.


What the Experts Have to Say

Renowned pediatricians like Dr. Bill Sears advocate for limited and supervised technology use for children. He emphasizes the importance of low-tech playtime and a balanced environment for a child's well-being saying:

I have a policy at my home, and my grand-kids know it well.  When they come to visit the first thing they see as they open the door is this sign . . .Welcome To Fun House!! While you're in here please leave your  phones in this basket." 

A surprising fact is that Steve Jobs, the guy who co-founded Apple Inc. (the company developing and producing iPhones) is in fact, a low-tech parent. Despite Steve Jobs leading Apple, one might expect his home to be filled with screens. However, in an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Jobs revealed, 

"We limit how much technology our kids use at home."

Steve Jobs  went on to reveal that he often bans all gadgets on school nights and puts time limits on weekends and holidays.Using tools like a stylus and blue-blocking glasses can add an extra layer of protection. Here are some phone usage tips that you and your family can practice as well:

  • Use text messaging as a preferred communication method.
  • Utilize cell phones in speaker mode with a hands-free kit.
  • Avoid carrying your phone against your body, as manufacturers can't guarantee the safety of radiation absorption.
  • Refrain from giving a child a cell phone for use as a toy or teething item.
  • Prioritize fully downloading movies or shows to your phone before allowing a child to watch them.
  • When children are watching, switch the phone to Airplane Mode for reduced radiation exposure

Screen Time Recommendations for Young Children



The WHO and the American Academy of Pediatrics provide age-specific recommendations for screen time, urging parents to prioritize physical activity, limit sedentary behavior, and ensure quality sleep. These guidelines emphasize the unique vulnerabilities of children and the importance of a balanced lifestyle.

The World Health Organization provides age-specific recommendations for infants and children regarding physical activity, screen time, and sleep:


Infants (less than 1 year):

  • Emphasizes physical activity through interactive play
  • Discourages restraint for more than 1 hour.
  • Screen time is not recommended.
  • Encourages reading and storytelling during sedentary periods.
  • Specifies 14–17 hours of good-quality sleep for 0–3 months and 12–16 hours for 4–11 months.

Children (1-2 years):

  • Recommends at least 180 minutes of various physical activities daily.
  • Advises against restraint for more than 1 hour.
  • Screen time is not recommended.
  • Screen time is not recommended.
  • Encourages reading and storytelling during sedentary periods.
  • Recommends 11-14 hours of good-quality sleep, including naps.

Children 3-4 years:

  • Advocates for at least 180 minutes of physical activities, with 60 minutes being moderate-to-vigorous intensity.
  • Advises against restraint for more than 1 hour.
  • Limits sedentary screen time to no more than 1 hour.
  • Recommends 10–13 hours of good-quality sleep, including naps.

To create a safer environment, parents can adopt various measures, including using a stylus, implementing cross-body phone cases, and incorporating WiFi switches to control exposure. Maintaining a minimum distance of 10 inches between a phone and the body is advised, considering that all cell phones come with warnings not to let them touch the body.

As parents, it's crucial to empower ourselves with information and adopt healthy tech habits. The coming years will see a growing focus on incorporating technology responsibly into our lives. By staying informed and making mindful choices, we can ensure a healthier and safer digital environment for our children.



References:


https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/all-around/Pages/Cell-Phone-Radiation-Childrens-Health.aspx


https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aaa3799


https://techwellness.com/blogs/expertise/doctors-tell-parents-when-screens-for-baby-kids


https://www.askdrsears.com/news/latest-news/low-tech-parents/


https://www.iarc.who.int/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/pr208_E.pdf


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6701402/#:~:text=A%20study%20modeling%20the%20exposure,that%20the%20marrow%20in%20the


https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/fashion/steve-jobs-apple-was-a-low-tech-parent.html

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