How too much screen time harms our children

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The first contact usually takes place in the first year of life. Even the youngest children like to look at photos or videos on their parents’ smartphones. Among three- to six-year-olds, it is already 81 percent who are on the Internet every day, says Marietheres van Veen, who works as a Safer Internet trainer at schools. “I know how difficult it is for parents to counteract this,” says van Veen, partly because the parents’ generation has not experienced primary digital education. But Van Veen doesn’t want to recommend maximum screen time, but much more: media-free time and as much of it as possible. And “Parents need to be role models who consciously put away their cell phone or tablet.” Children should not use digital media until age two, and after that, as little as possible.

Too much time in front of screens is highly problematic, especially for children, as shown by the increase in myopia: 27 percent of 16-year-olds are nearsighted—that is, they see well up close but blurry at a distance. According to calculations, 50 percent of the world’s population could be nearsighted by 2050.

Background: Due to excessive growth in the length of the eyeball, the incoming light rays in the eye are already focused before the retina. “Reading too long and too close is one of the most important risk factors for myopia,” says Markus Gschweidl, guild master optician. Another is a lack of daylight. That’s why outdoor play is so essential for children. After all, poor vision affects everyday life and can lead to secondary diseases such as macular degeneration, retinal detachment, or glaucoma.

It cannot be cured if nearsightedness already exists, but its progression can be delayed. Special eye drops, contact lenses, or glasses can slow down the growth of the eyeball.

Especially in children, it is challenging to recognise defective vision because, For a child, its vision is normal; it knows nothing else. “If children hold books particularly close to their faces, are clumsy in everyday life, or can’t catch a ball, these can be indications of a vision defect,” says optician Gschweidl. Difficulties recognising faces, problems copying from the blackboard, and headaches can also be warning signs.

Speaking of headaches, “Due to too much screen time, we see an increase in headaches and neck pain in children, as well as the development of a hunchback,” physiotherapist Peter Weese points out. Whether in front of a screen or elsewhere, children should not sit for more than 50 minutes and should get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day – although more is always better.

  • source: kleinezeitung.at/picture:
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