Kids off screens: what’s over screen time

It only takes two hours in front of a screen to develop health problems, especially in children and adolescents. The much-discussed topic is not new, but the list of studies confirming this dissertation is getting longer.

The most recently recently published it American Journal of Preventive Medicine verified the close association between excessive use of screens (TV, computer, smartphone) and the appearance of psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain, back pain, feeling of depression, irritability or bad mood, nervousness, difficulty sleeping and dizziness.

Research conducted on over 400,000 teens by the University of Queensland, Australia and Queen’s University and the University of Ottawa in Canada, has shown that it only takes two hours of screen use to develop symptoms. PCs and mobile phones, even used only to view multimedia content increases the risk of psychosomatic disorders by 84% in boys and 108% more in girls. Similar results are also seen when watching TV and playing video games.

This phenomenon, known as over screen time, particularly affects children. Much research has already sounded the alarm. Experts from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found a clear change in the brains of the little ones, in particular a reduction of the white matter, which represents the body’s internal communication network. In other words, overuse of screens produces a deficit in cognitive skills, especially in language and reading skills.

“Then the ability to concentrate is reduced, but also the ability to wait. With the tablet, it develops stimulus-response modelHe claims Professor Giuseppe Riva, director of the experimental laboratory for applied technological research in neuropsychology at the Italian Auxiliary Institute. “With language, I can talk about things that I may not have in front of me (I can talk about a glass, even if I do not have it in front of my eyes). With the tablet or smartphone instead traded immediately“.

It is therefore no coincidence that primary school teachers encounter an increasing number of children with dyslexia, learning and with a poor ability to maintain attention in the classroom. In particular, it seems that the lack of concentration may also be related to the use of touch devices.

As Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Birkbeck University in London Tom Smith explains, “there is a concern related to the possible impact that the use of the touch screen, as today affects more than 6 out of 10 children already in the third and fourth year of life, it could have on children’s attention. But until now, the empirical evidence for this hypothesis has been sparse.

Excessive exposure to screens causes other side effects, but even in this case, the research does not establish a precise and unambiguous connection. However, many studies suggest problems related to sleep quality, weight gain (childhood obesity) and visual disturbances (chronic visual fatigue and myopia). In some cases, there are also behavioral problems, the child tends to close his world within the perimeter of the electronic device with the risk of isolation.

“The discovery of these technologies need not be premature: never before they go to kindergarten», Says Prof. Giuseppe Riva. The World Health Organization dictates some important guidelines: no tablets, smartphones and TVs under two years oldafter 24 months of age, a maximum of 1 hour of exposure to screens for up to 4 years.

These are only recommendations, but they should be considered, especially when there is a tendency to replace the role of play and personal interaction by providing children with electronic devices as surrogates for babysitters and parents.

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