Kids under the age of 9 spend over 2 hours daily in front of screens, says report

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New research has found that the amount of time kids aged 9 and below spend in front of mobile screens has tripled in just a span of four years

It may no longer come as a surprise that more and more children have become dependent upon mobile gadgets, but what's even more concerning is how this number continues to rise and that they spend too much screen time on these devices.

Too much screen time

In the past four years alone, the number of kids under the age of 9, who are hooked on mobile screens, has tripled. More specifically, latest reports have found that kids 9 years old and below spend over two hours every single day glued to mobile screens.

"On the one hand it's not surprising because it's what we look around ourselves and can see. I can see it at the airport, for example, I can see it at restaurants and I can even see it in my own home where my younger daughter watches almost no television but she'll watch lots of TV shows on her phone," explains Psychology professor Douglas Gentile from the Iowa State University, in a CNN interview.
What's more, it's becoming increasingly challenging for parents to monitor what their child does on these devices, as it has become a quick fix to keep a kid quiet in public.
"They're relying on the seeming benefit of being able to quiet the kid at a restaurant with a device," he lamented. "We may be building a bit of a Frankenstein's monster, because we're using that power for our benefit, not for the child's benefit."

Another study found that kids aged 5 to 16 spend six hours on screen time each day

In 2015, a study found that kids aged 5 to 16 spend up to six hours each day in front of screens, such as television, tablets, smartphones, and laptops. Not surprisingly, the study found that teenage boys spent the most time using gadgets, averaging 8 hours per day.

Children have been adopting the habit of multi-screening, or watching TV and surfing the net or playing video games at the same time.

"The main difference from the 1990s is that then TV and magazines were the main ways for connecting kids to the media and now they have different devices from tablets, mobiles, games consoles and they have a much higher screen time," research executive Matthew Nevard told BBC in an interview.

Connectedness is no longer a luxury, but a fundamental need for this generation, the study found.

"The internet is pivotal to their lives and they are now able to access a wealth of content," explained Nevard, adding how it has allowed kids to seek out content that truly interests them. "Children now don't remember a time before the internet."

unhealthy screentime kids

photo: dreamstime

How can parents lessen screen time?

It no longer needs to be stated that exposing children to media is not always a bad thing, as it can be a great tool for education. However, as with all aspects of parenting, it should be done in moderation. Generally, toddlers aged 15 to 18 months old are only starting to grasp tw0-dimensional images, as well as symbolic concepts and memorization.

Dr. Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor of developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan cautions parents not to expose their kids to screens under 15 months of age. While others would argue that no screen time under the age of 2 should be the universal rule.

To lessen screen time, try limiting your child's access to smartphones or tablets. Instill in them the habit of asking for permission each time they use it. Most importantly, be strict with their time usage.

Instead of toting a tablet when going out, why not bring a book or a toy to keep them entertained? It would be even better if you encourage children to communicate and interact instead of being withdrawn. Engaging them in conversation can help sharpen their social as well as intellectual capacity.

Another way to channel your child's interest in gadgets into more productive things is to encourage them to use it as a way to interact with family and friends. For instance, teach them how to use the camera to take photos and videos, which they can later share to everyone.

Most importantly, kids must not lose sight of proper etiquette, or what is known as "digital manners." They have to know it is not okay to ignore people while glued to a screen.

sources: CNN.com, BBC.com, TechAdvisor

READ: Toddler screen time addiction spells serious trouble

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