If You Could Do One Thing, Change This: Kids and Screens

What is the one thing you can do to protect your kids from suffering from the consequences of too much screen time?

When we're very young, imagination drives us. Our minds wander inside a never-ending summer vacation. Our brains are still a work-in-progress, adapting to our surroundings as fast as possible. We're an open window to new experiences that we will perceive with our senses and react with our emotions. The fact that we can process so much information being so young is an incredible feat of the human brain. Take learning languages as an example. Children can easily learn one or even two languages at the same time without much effort. So, we need to keep in mind two important factors related to children. One, their brains are adapting to the environment. And two, their purely emotional beings at this point in their lives.

The Problem With Screens

There are many reasons we should be worried about how much screen time kids have.

  • Kids that stare for too much time at screens can suffer from eyesight problems in the future.

  • When kids are using screens all the time, they're probably not getting enough exercise they need to grow healthy.

  • Kids that have screens always available to them never have to deal with boredom, missing a precious opportunity to exercise creativity.

  • Kids that learn to read using screens don't get the kinesthetics present in paper books and have many sources of distraction, and this impacts their ability to concentrate and to recall when events happened inside a story.

  • Kids are also subject to bullying, sexual abuse, and a range of illegal conduct.

  • Many ads target children to sell products and services.

  • Lots of websites use addictive design to exploit our brain's vulnerabilities, regardless if its kids or adults that access it.

All the above items are capable of producing adverse results on the experienced, fully developed brains of adults. The effects in children, however, are exponentially higher because, as stated above, children's brains are in an intense learning window. In other words, they're like a sponge, absorbing everything they experience, good and bad.

What Can We Do? There's no easy solution here. At this point in our society, taking away screens is not viable. I also have to highlight that there are some specific cases that screens may be helpful for a child. For instance, some kids within the Autism spectrum can make use of special screen devices to enhance communication. But if you ask me, "What one thing would you recommend me to do to reduce time children spend on screens?" The Alliance A lot of people underrate children. They think because kids have a different way to see the world, they lack intelligence. That is absolutely not true. Family and schools are our first communities when we're a child. And these two communities need to create an alliance with our children. An alliance is an instrument of trust that is an effective way of achieving a goal that includes a common purpose. A powerful tool that communities have to learn the way children see the world so they both school and family can understand their needs better, and decide the best for their children. It also means that we need to make information accessible, backing them up with scientific studies, so people can understand the options they have to decide what to include in the alliance. And, yes, we must welcome children into the discussions, adapting how much they are ready to take part in decisions looking at each case with empathy, intelligence, and kindness. So, if you know children you care about, please choose the hard way. Come up with an alliance with them. Start with an open, honest conversation. Don't forget to get down to their level and look at them in the eyes. Educating them about screen time certainly doesn't mean doing everything they want to do. But it also doesn't mean simply taking screens away from them.

Thank you, Rosie Phillips, from Human Tech for shredding the light to such an important topic.