Electronic devices endanger children’s mental health

Study Finds Excessive Exposure Harms Kindergarten Kids Regardless of Content

A recent study found that children in kindergarten who were exposed to electronic screens for more than an hour a day had a significant increase in mental health risk, regardless of the content viewed, and the risk escalated as the duration of screen exposure increased.

According to the study, conducted by experts from the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center affiliated with Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, children who watch entertainment and non-child-oriented programs have greater mental health risks than those who watch educational programs.

A report on the study, which involved nearly 16,000 kindergarten children from Shanghai over three consecutive years, was published on the website of the journal JAMA Pediatrics earlier this month.

Children’s exposure to television and other electronic products has become the norm and starts earlier. World Health Organization guidelines recommend that children under the age of 2 avoid screen exposure, and children between the ages of 2 and 5 should spend no more than one hour per day on average in front of screens.

However, previous studies by the research group found that 24 percent of children were exposed to a screen before the age of 1, and 76 percent of children began regular screen exposure before the age of 2. Among 3-year-olds who just entered kindergarten, so 78.6 percent of them had an average daily screen exposure longer than suggested by the guidelines.

Excessive exposure of children to screens is a common phenomenon around the world. The research team said that among children between the ages of 2 and 5 in Canada and Australia, 85 percent and 74 percent, respectively, were found in studies to be using electronic screens excessively.

Jiang Fan, one of the lead researchers on the new study, has long been involved in research on the impact of lifestyle on children’s health. Based on more than six years of observations and studies, her previous research found that if there is excessive screen exposure in one’s childhood and early childhood, even if screen exposure decreases later, it can still have a significant adverse effect on the child’s cognitive abilities. and psychological and behavioral development.

The new study was designed to determine whether the links between excessive screen time and mental health risks differed depending on the content viewed. Screen time was collected when the children were 3, 5 and 6 years old, and their mental health was reported by parents using a standard questionnaire.

The study also found that educational video programs and entertainment video programs made up the majority of content that children in this age group watched. As their social skills and needs grow, children’s use of social media will increase as they grow.

However, experts have pointed out that excessive use of social media can harm children’s interaction and communication with the people around them in real life. Previous studies have shown that children who use electronic devices excessively often lack social skills and empathy, making it difficult to build stable and healthy relationships.

“Like the ability to learn and use new technology, a child’s sociability will be a very important ability for him or her in the future. Sociability builds the relationships he or she has with people, which is a source of happiness,” said Yu Suisui, director of Huili School Nantong, a bilingual school in Nantong, Jiangsu Province.

The research team is working on using MRI to examine the effects of increased early screen exposure on children’s brain structure and the associated development of brain function.

Experts reminded parents and guardians that children under the age of 2 should only use electronic devices for video calling when necessary. They also suggested that for children between 2 and 5 years of age, parents should accompany and interact with them when they are in front of screens.

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