Although some games, activities and apps can be educational, children need time to explore the real world using their imagination and developing abstract thinking. Spending too much time in virtual worlds is not a good idea.
Also, most screens admit a ‘blue light’ which can affect the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Overuse of screens in children and adults has been linked to sleep disruption, so it is advisable to avoid all screens for an hour before bedtime.
Then there is the question of children’s eyesight. Since the advent of the TV, some parents have expressed concern that too much screen time might damage their children’s eyes. Watching TV using a phone or tablet does not appear to have an adverse effect on vision.
However new evidence suggests that devices such as mobile phones and tablets emit low-levels of radiation, which some have suggested may have an effect on our brain chemistry. This may be linked to DNA mutations and brain cancer, although research is ongoing. As children are still developing and growing, they are potentially more vulnerable to exposure than adults.
Regular use of keyboards can also cause Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), a painful condition affecting the wrists. In addition, an increase in neck and back problems has been seen in those spending a long time each day hunched over a screen, as it affects natural alignment. So if your child uses a tablet in his or her bedroom, encourage them to sit in a chair rather than on their bed, to ensure that they have back support.
Finally, scientists are concerned that motility, quantity and quality of sperm has decreased in recent years. The reasons for this have not been fully investigated but there is some suggestion that it could be linked to the practice of carrying mobile phones in trouser pockets. Young boys – and men – should avoid carrying their phone in this area.
In the modern world it’s unrealistic to expect children to avoid screens altogether. Accessing the internet for homework, word processing and communicating with friends are important activities. However, concerned parents may wish to limit their child’s exposure to phones and tablets.