Photo: Chakma Orchid
Photo: Chakma Orchid
The current pandemic has dramatically reshaped the way we interact with the world, from the inside out. Since last year, there has been a massive increase in virtual learning among students of all ages. Learners, especially schoolchildren, are spending more time in front of a screen than ever before.
Due to the pandemic, screen time has increased by up to 60%. The increase in screen time and its potential impact on school children leaves parents wondering how much screen time is healthy and how they could put in place justified restrictions.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics has established a set of guidelines that recommend screen time, in hours, based on a child’s age. Generally, for children under five, the limit is less than an hour per day and only under adult supervision. Between 5 and 18 years of age, screen time should be adapted to the needs of the child.
Photos: Chakma Orchid
Photos: Chakma Orchid
While e-learning models have allowed education to continue in these difficult times, it comes at a price. Excessive screen time can lead to a number of adverse health effects.
For starters, too many hours of watching a screen affect the body’s circadian rhythm. The radiated blue light delays the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with the sleep-wake cycle, and ultimately delays bedtime. With schools starting at strict times, late bedtime results in less restful sleep and more drowsiness the next day.
Fifth-grader Samah Noor says she spends “most of the day” dealing with electronic devices. She complains of headaches and an irritable temper. She also adds that her new routine of increased screen time makes her lose track of time very easily, which only adds to her bad feelings.
Likewise, parents have noticed serious changes in behavior. Sadia Sharmin, who works as a manager in a group of companies, reinforces Samah’s words by telling us that her two children are suffering the same fate.
“They were so brooding, it just got harder and harder to deal with,” says Sadia, “I can’t blame them. They’re just kids, and if staring at a screen for hours has an effect. on us we can only imagine what it does to our children. “
Besides online tutorials and homework, another element competes for a child’s attention, often stronger than the first: hobbies and entertainment.
Samah says, “After school I play online games with my friends and siblings. I often end up spending the rest of the day this way ”.
It seems that the added stress of online learning hasn’t stopped kids from using the same devices to get rid of boredom. Since these two factors are very demanding in a child’s life, children often don’t think much about how much screen time is safe and healthy for them. Given the existing lockdown conditions, alternatives for device-less relaxation have become limited.
As a result, parents often choose to let their children stay online longer. When the time for limitations comes, most parents, including Sadia, are faced with the same question: “What should I do then?” “
With entertainment at their fingertips, imagination and creativity have multiplied differently in today’s children. There was a time when a child played with something as mundane as a stick; today’s children, in a world of flashing images and interactive screens, need more.
Parents and teachers agree that it largely affects a child’s growth. Besides emotional, mental and physical growth, another major aspect of their life that is affected is their social development. For growing children, social interaction and exposure to the outside world is an essential part of growth. However, in light of recent events, social connectivity has seemingly become a thing of the past. While people these days may be most connected through a virtual airplane, they are disconnected in the ways that matter most. Many studies have suggested that increasing screen time can also lead to the development of social anxiety later in life, which turns out to be another area of concern for parents.
Sadia gives us insight into how this affects her children’s ability to socialize. Their worlds have shrunk to a small screen. Social gatherings or just meeting people outside of their home become difficult for them.
“The calmest children sink into their shells. Without social interaction and connection with the outside world, some children have more to lose, ”worries Jannatunessa Muna, teacher at Stride International School. Several studies and experts discuss the direct relationship between social interactions in young children and self-esteem and self-confidence.
However, she also points out that it’s not all bad, with this tech interaction kids have become more tech savvy than anyone could have hoped, which is a necessary skill right now. While some children lose confidence in themselves, others have regained confidence in their newfound tech skills. So, dark as it sounds, Muna chooses to have an optimistic outlook by telling us that there is a silver lining.
Parents, however, remain worried. They worry about another impact on children, that of their routines now close to non-existent. With so much time spent on their screens, when it comes time to sleep, kids often can’t.
Young children have built up energy from a lack of physical activity, causing them inadvertently to be restless. Other times, they cannot sleep, despite the fatigue. This again, can be directly related to the time they spend on their screens. In a study conducted by the Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation is caused by the delay in the release of melatonin, which delays sleep. This leaves children awake for long hours of the night and sleeping most of the day, which also contributes to their mood and irritability.
With the possibility of opening schools for children soon, parents and teachers are in doubt. While they agree that there will certainly be a period of time during which children will have to adjust to another new change, will things work out eventually?
“The children will adapt to their new lifestyle, just as they did for this one,” said Riffat Jafrin, a teacher in an English-speaking school. “But it’s our job, as parents and teachers, to make things as smooth as possible.”
Teachers suggest that the opening be done in phases, making it easier for children to get back into this routine, rather than throwing them back into it, which could be overwhelming. As for parents, Sadia suggests, they need advice on how best to care for children, now and in the future. She suggests professionals help guide parents across the country as a whole, as they wait for schools to reopen and some form of normalcy to return to their children’s lives.
1. Borders (July 22, 2021). Social Connectivity, Excessive Screen Time During COVID-19, and Mental Health: A Review of the Current Evidence.
2. Sleep Foundation (February 5, 2021). Screen time and insomnia: what it means for teens.
3. Reid Health (undated). How much screen time should children have during the pandemic?
4. Kiddie Care Nurseries (January 12, 2021). The importance of social interaction.
5. National Bureau of Economic Research (March 2000). Self-confidence and social interactions.
6. Online Psychology Degrees (nd). How does screen time affect a child’s social development?
Syeda Erum Noor is dangerously unconscious and has no concept of time. Send help to [email protected]
Hiya loves the food you hate by the norm – broccoli, pineapple pizza, and Bounty bars. Find her at [email protected]