Do you use your smartphone/ tablet to keep your little one busy as you go about completing you daily chore? While the final verdict is still awaited on this one, what we do know about using gadgets to calm and distract young children is that it puts adverse strain on their eyes, leading to long-term problems with the vision.
It also takes away time from children to develop empathy and problem-solving skills and elements of social interaction that are typically learned during unstructured play and communication with peers.
“While TV, phones, video games can provide a lot of information to children and in some cases are important tools for learning, constant exposure to these gadgets has a negative impact on the children’s eyesight and growth,’’ said Dr. Ira Chopra, consultant eye surgeon, Paras Hospitals.
Blue ray phenomena
“The blue ray phenomenon is something that is new to even researchers, but what we do know is that our eye’s natural filters do not provide sufficient protection against blue light rays from the sun, let alone the blue light emanating from these devices or from fluorescent-light tubes. Prolonged exposure to blue light may cause retinal damage and contribute to age-related muscular degeneration. This is the case with adults and for children the implications are worse,”
Studies now show that a majority of children spend a large part of their time staring at digital screens. In some cases, it is as high as several hours at a stretch.
“Blue light has a short wavelength and a high frequency, because of which it has a glaring effect on the eyes. Prolonged exposure to computers, television screens, smartphones and tablets strains the eyes and causes headache and fatigue. The exposure is causing degeneration of vision,’’ said Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, national president, Indian Medical Association.
Mr. Aggarwal added that a majority of children coming with complaints of poor eyesight have dry eyes and short sight, typically expected in such cases. “Parents have to understand that children have to be outside the home away from the gadgets to allow their vision to grow,” he said.
But it’s not just eye health that “screen time” seems to be taking away from kids. Child psychologists now point to a worrying trend of this habit interfering or even impairing a child’s development of skills to adjust to the environment.
“While educational apps and TV shows are great source for children to sharpen their brains and hone their communication skills, parents have to tread carefully. There is no replacement for direct human to human interaction,” said Dr. Anil Bansal of Delhi Medical Association.
International research says that small children’s dependence on tablets and smartphones hampers their ability to focus, concentrate and build a large vocabulary.
Experts also add that gadgets cannot be given a blanket No. “Used wisely they aren’t all bad,” is the general refrain.
Limit screen time to an hour, maximum, to help the children develop coordination, hone quick reactions, and sharpen language skills. Moderation is the key.
And switch off the gadgets regularly to help the child understand and differentiate between real and virtual world.