Screen Time & Technology: How Exposure Affects Long Term Mental and Visual Health
By Crystal Tsui
We are privileged to live in the digital world. We can go on-line and check on with friends who are thousands of miles away or go shopping on our device during our lunch break. Everything is just a touch away and has become so accessible, but all of this comes with a price. We are exposing our children to electronic screens at such a young age, even as early as two months. Although it may be easy for busy parents to calm their child with an iPad, the harm may be greater than the immediate good. During the time we are exposing our young children to screens, their brains are still developing.
There is a period, which psychologists call the Critical Period, when children need exposure to outside stimuli from the environment around them. This is when they learn to distinguish facial expressions, social cues, and even tone of voice. If they are not exposed to the environment around them, their development could be stunted.
Prolonged screen time can affect their neurodevelopment, learning, and can result in behavioral disorders. Parents try to utilize digital screens for the purpose of education in most cases. Since digital is instant, the technology is thinking for the children. Not only that, but screens shift the nervous system into fight-or-flight mode which can cause self-regulation and stress management to be less efficient. If stress management is less efficient, children might not be able to handle daily stressors when they grow up.
Apart from mental health deficits, early screen time can cause visual deficits in children. Dr. Rahul Bhola, pediatric ophthalmologist, states that in the past few decades there has been an increase in myopia or near-sightedness. Not only has myopia been increasing, but a study found that children who were exposed to digital screens at a very young age, developed acute onset esotropia or crossing of the eyes. Many children had to have surgery to correct their eyes. However, if children must use screens (school related or not) try to limit their time and encourage outdoor activities as well as breaks from the digital world.
If you or someone you know has behavioral or attention disorders, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/ .