The US National Institute of Health estimates children and adolescents spend an average of 5-7 hours on screens during leisure time, and the World Health Organisation added gaming disorder in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.
Experts claim that this “addiction” causes obesity, sleeplessness, and falling victim to cyber-bullying in children, and causes a loss of social skills through a lack of face-to-face contact.
Recently, a US study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports showed that children as young as two are prone to numerous mental health issues due to tablets and smartphones. It takes only an hour daily staring at a screen to make them depressed and anxious.
Even though teenagers are most prone to these damaging effects, it has been found that the brains of children younger than and toddlers are still affected by these devices.
Yet, according to researchers from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia, the time spent on smartphones is a serious but avoidable cause of mental health issue.
Professors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell maintain that half of the mental health issues develop by adolescence, so it is vital that the factors linked to mental health are identified, as it is very difficult or impossible to influence afterward.
Parents and teachers need to limit the amount of time children spend online or in front of the TV.
This study agreed with the established screen time limit by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is one hour per day for children aged two to five, and about two hours for school-aged children and adolescents.
The study analyzed data provided by the parents of over 40,000 US children aged two to 17 for a nationwide health survey in 2016. The questionnaire included questions about their medical care, any emotional, developmental or behavioral issues and their daily screen time.
It was found that adolescents who spend more than seven hours on screen daily have a doubled risk of developing depression and anxiety, compared to those who spend an hour.
Professor Twenge added that teens spend even more time on their phones and on social media, activities which are more related to low wellbeing than TV and videos.
Pre-schoolers or children under 5, who are high users have a doubled risk of losing their temper and are 46 percent less able to calm down when excited.
Moreover, the study showed that among 14 to 17-year-olds, four in ten (42.2 percent) of those who spent more than seven hours daily on screens did not finish tasks, while 1 in 11, (9 percent) of 11 to 13-year-olds who spent an hour with screens daily were not interested in learning new things.
Researchers said that were particularly interested in links between screen time and diagnoses of anxiety and depression in youngsters, as previous research on associations between screen time and psychological well being among children and adolescents has been conflicting.
Furthermore, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine reviewed available types of interactive media and raised important questions about them being used as educational tools.
Namely, researchers added that the adverse effects of TV and video on very small children are well understood, but the effects of these devices on the pre-school brain has been outpaced by how much children are already using them.
They maintain that the use of a smartphone and a tablet divert a child’s attention, and this can have detrimental effects on their social-emotional development.
In case such devices become the predominant method to calm and distract young children, they will become unable to develop their own internal mechanisms of self-regulation.
Moreover, even though there are experts that claim that mobile devices can offer numerous benefits, such as better academic engagement in autistic students, and early literacy skills, researchers found that the use of interactive screen time by children younger than three could impair the development of the skills needed for maths and science.
Therefore, Jenny Radesky, clinical instructor in developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, advises parents to increase the direct human to human interaction with their children instead.