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Screen Time

Oh well, the holidays are over. Boarders are going back to their respective primary and secondary schools, day scholars are back to early mornings to prepare for school, Monday to Friday routine, homeschoolers have a schedule of their own but still all learners are back for the second term from April 29 to August 2, 2019, according to the official dates given by the Ministry of Education. The little ones in kindergarten and play school have flexible times and that means in between the day there is TV/Ipads/Phone time to watch cartoons and keeping themselves busy when mummy is in the kitchen making dinner or tiding up the house or maybe mummy wants a little break with peace and quite because she is tired.

But as much as screen time for your child/children may seem to solve a tantrum, it is also harmful to your child, according to reports by American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP). Another report published in 2019 by JAMA Paediatrics recommends that children under age two should have no screen time to enable their development growth and to maximize their face to face interaction with parents and people around them as well as establish and strengthen bonding between child and parent.

The report notes that children observing screens interrupt their social development and instead should be out running, painting and generally engaging themselves in physical activities. World Health Organisation recommends that sedentary screen time including video games should be restricted before a child is two years of age. (images)

I have seen this with my nieces and nephews trying to manipulate me and their parents too just because they can. You know how you may be trying to feed a child after they were watching an episode of Sofia or PJ Masks. There is usually a loud scream that follows after the screen goes off or you pull away from a device from a child’s possession. Being the helpful person you are and because you want a child to feed without causing trouble, you switch the tv back on or hand them a phone back. This is, in fact, causing more harm than help. The study suggests that feeding time is bonding time, especially for breastfeeding mothers.

The AAP provided the following guidelines for screen time for different ages;

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid the use of screen media other than video-chatting
  • Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they are seeing
  • For children ages two to five years, limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programmes. Again, parents should be watching it with their children.
  • For children ages six and older, place consistent limits, making sure screen time does not get in the way of sleep and physical activity.

In Kenya, statistics from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) show that there are about 3.9 million children in each of the 4.3 million Kenyan households who own televisions. This means that approximately 17 million Kenyan children are exposed to tv. Over 60% of children have access to smartphones and on average, most teenagers spend 30 hours per week on screen.

Effects of too much screen time for children;

  1. Vision issues may arise because of the length eyes are fixed on the screen and as a child the more vulnerable they are.

2. Poor sleep is highly contributed by focus on the screen because of the light as well and the child will be forfeiting sleep to watch videos than sleep on scheduled times.

3. Addiction/Over dependence such that a child refuses to do work or normal child activities because they do not have a tablet or phone next to them.

4. Negative impacts on the relationship amongst family members as the child cannot communicate properly and when it comes to a parent moderating screen time.

5. Reduces engagement in physical activities for leisure that is helpful for growth.

At the end of it all, parents have to take control of how much time their children get and what they actually watch. Parents can also engage in playing safe video games so that children can feel the safety of having parents/guardians engaging in their activities. Simple bans like having no phones during dinner time for both children and adults in the house or no gadgets in the sleeping rooms would be a good start

  • By Ann Wambui
  • 2019-05-10
  • Children and Technology
  • Do's and Don'ts
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