Since the invention of smartphones, every parent’s main concern is their kids’ increased screen time and worried for eye health of their kids as today’s generation is growing up with a variety of electronic devices at their fingertips. Basically screen time is the time your kids spends watching TV and using computer, tablets, and smartphones. However these digital devices can provide endless educational contents and unlimited hours of entertainment, limitless screen time is adversely affecting the overall health of kids specially those under the age of 3 years, as their development is happening rapidly.
With the ongoing pandemic, this became more serious, both kids and adult are spending more and more time using screen for everything from office to school, from entertainment to socializing. There is no hard and fast guidelines for how much screen time kids can have, but according to the American Academy of pediatrics advice kids below 18 months should not be allowed for any screen time and after 18 months kids should be allowed only one hour and teens not more than 2 hours of screen time, that too for watching educational contents. In today’s scenario it becomes more important take precautionary measures for eye health as screen time has increased beyond limits.
Effects of increased screen time in kids:
Effects on brain:
According to the data from National Institute of Health (NIH) indicates that kids who spent more than 2 hours a day on screen scored lower on language and thinking tests, and some children with more than seven hours of screen time experienced thinning of the brain’s cortex (the area of brain related to critical thinking and reasoning). Excessive screen time may reduce the child’s ability to observe and concentrate. There are also some evidence that kids who watch a lot of TV or smartphone during early years perform less well in school on reading tests and may show a deficit in attention. (What are some foods helps in brain development?)
Effects on eyes:
the first organ which is directly affected by the excessive screen time is your baby’s eyes. Too much screen time can lead to digital eye strain, which can include burning, itching and tired eyes along with headache, fatigue and double vision, loss of focus. Because of continued screen time, the muscles around the eye get tired and hamper their vision. In early years excessive use of screens can have potential harm to their visual development. (What are the common eye issues in kids?)
Chances of obesity:
Many studies have found that increased screen time is directly related to obesity, children who spend more time watching and playing with screens are more prone to obesity than children who spend less time with screen media.(How to deal with Obesity in kids?)
Effects on sleep:
The widespread use of portable electronic devices and other screen media in the bedroom includes a high risk of insufficient sleep, affecting a majority of adolescents and 30% of toddlers, preschool and school age kids. The light emitted from the screen interferes the sleep cycle in the brain and may lead to insomnia. Limited screen time and avoiding mobile phones by kids at least an hour before bed time for a better sleep. (What are some foods help in sound sleep?)
Hamper family time:
Increased screen time of kids and adults is hampering family life these days. The more time kids spend watching TV or computer, the more likely they find it difficult forming a relationship or emotional bond with their parents.
While screen time may keep your kids busy and provide a lot of educational content, excess use is creating many health issues in kids. Now it is high time to reduce their screen time to create a healthy lifestyle for children. Have a conversation with your kids explaining to them about the danger of unlimited screen time and online predators. Here are some tips for parents on how to reduce the use of screen by their kids:
Tips to reduce screen time:
Set an example
Before asking your child to reduce their screen time, first you should reduce yours. Keep track of your screen time. Apart from work or online meetings avoid scrolling your social media now and then. What you do your kids will follow, so set a good example. Instead for using smartphones and laptops in your free time, read some books and make your children realize that books are equally entertaining.
Step by step
First check the total screen time of your child in a day. Then start to cut that time, day by day like half an hour every second day, as it is impossible to ask children to completely cut down all the electronic devices at a time, but if they reduce gradually soon they will use only for their recommended time.
Set a schedule
Your success depends upon your plans. Always plan the screen time with the concern of your kids and set the schedule. Like allowing screen time only after doing their homework or other studies and works. Make screen time a privilege rather than a right.
Stick to the rules
Whatever rules you have made, just stick to the rules. Always remember that you are the boss and you make the rules. There can be some conflicts initially but make them understand the importance of limiting screen time.
Screen free bedroom
Make your bedroom screen free. Using electronic devices just before sleep affects your sleep cycle, making it hard for you to fall asleep at night. And if kids do not have proper sleep at night they will wake up tired and don’t have energy to do activities during the day. Rather place the TV, computer, laptop and phones in some central location, and ask your child to use any device in that location only, so that you can better monitor the screen time of kids.
Encourage other activities
Encourage kids for other activities like reading, craft work, indoor games and doing puzzles. You can also engage them in some household works like helping you in gardening, cooking and cleaning, this will also strengthen your bond with your kids.
Outdoor playing and exercise is essential for overall well being of kids and a best way to keep them away from screen. Engage them in some sports like summing, badminton or any game of their interest.
Screen free zone
Establish a zone in your house where any type of screens are not allowed. Make some time for your family when the screen stays off like at meals and before bed time.
Along with reducing screen time of kids with these tips, you can also reduce the effects of screen time on kids by changing their eating habits and taking care of their diet, including some foods that help to protect their brain and eye from the adverse effects of electronic devices. Here is the list of some foods that support your kid’s brain and eye health.
Foods to reduce effects
Nut and seeds
All the nuts like almonds, walnuts, pista, cashew, brazil nuts, hazel nuts, and Pine nuts are rich in vitamin E and help in boosting memory. They are also antioxidants which protect against cell damage. Walnuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and are a valuable substance for brain function, memory and thinking abilities. This fatty acid also encourages cognitive functions. Apart from nuts, seeds like flex, chia, melon, sesame and pumpkins also contain powerful antioxidants like vitamin E that protect the brain from free radical damage. If you are looking for eye health concerning food, Nuts and seeds are best. (why to include nuts and seeds in kid’s diet daily?)
Pure cocoa powder (unsweetened) contains brain boosting components as it is packed with a large number of antioxidants molecules, the main is epicatechin helpful to improve cognition in studies and also contributes for eye health.
This Ayurvedic herb is believed to sharpen the brain by protecting cells and increasing chemicals associated with learning and memory and hence it is a child brain development food. It has shown to improve spatial learning and retaining power. Brahmi is also very beneficial for eye health. (some more herbs helps in brain development )
Vitamin A plays a crucial role in vision by maintaining a clear cornea, which is the outer covering of your eye. Rhodopsin, a protein present in eyes that helps to see in low light is component of vitamin A. Orange- coloured fruits and vegetables like carrots, mangoes, apricot, sweet potatoes are high in bête-carotene, a form of vitamin A that helps your eyes to adjust them in darkness and improves night vision. It is key to protect your kid from any children’s eye disease. So it is best to include vitamin A rich foods in kids diet for eye health.(How to cook vitamin A food to retain nutrition?)
It is one of the most important mineral for eye health. Eye contains high levels of zinc. It is also involved in the formation of visual pigments in the retina. Zinc deficiency can result in night blindness. Chickpeas, beans, nuts are some food sources of zinc. (Zinc foods that help in treating mouth ulcers?)
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