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Fit & Proper: How to protect children from electronic screen syndrome

According to current guidelines, infants less than two years of age should not get any screen time and kids between 2 and 5 years should be allowed to watch television only for an hour

Atish Laddad 

Atish Laddad Founder & Director, Docterz
Atish Laddad Founder & Director, Docterz

Separating from technology has emerged as one of the major issues being faced by parents today. Weaning them away from screens is becoming more and more difficult. And here is why this a major problem, especially for

What exactly is screen time and when does it cause a possible threat?

Screen time refers to the time spent staying glued to the television, playing games on handheld electronic devices like computers, video games, phones, iPad or technologically advanced gaming consoles. If your child spends copious amount of time on the screen or is obsessed with the virtual world, it may be an indication that your child has fallen prey to an electronic screen syndrome (ESS) that can sow seeds for issues like secondary autism in kids or autism triggered by electronic screens.

What is ESS?

Have you ever encountered a situation wherein your child's head is continuously buried in a gadget? This, without a doubt, has a negative impact on your child’s developing brain.

Our technology-oriented world is impacting children’s decision-making abilities and their behavioural patterns. Moreover, falling prey to technology-induced secondary autism may lead to the gradual development of autistic symptoms in

ESS is fundamentally a syndrome of dysregulation — an inability to modify the child's mood, responsiveness, or level of stimulation in a manner suitable to one's environment. Networking with screens tends to shift the nervous system into fight-or-flight mode which results in dysregulation and inefficiency of various biological systems. At times this anxiety response is instant and noticeable, say while playing an action video game, and other times the retort is more understated and may occur only post a certain amount of recurrence.

Symptoms of ESS

Symptoms like extreme mood swings, tantrums, low tolerance towards anxiety and stress, insomnia, behavioural snags, loss at the academic front, diverse behaviours, lack in sportsmanship, lack of development in fine motor skills, speech impairment are commonly seen.

Negative impacts of ESS on the child

Studies suggest that young kids who spend long hours on-screen will certainly display signs that are close to autism. And when parents deliberately keep their kids away from the screens for a few months, the symptoms of secondary autism typically vanish. For instance, watching shows on television will only teach your child to repeat words without understanding what the words or numbers actually mean. Parents must note that kids learn the meaning of words via the medium of social communication, that is, by engaging in playful sessions with real people and having someone to converse with. On the other hand, the noise and light that comes from an electronic screen will only capture a baby's attention but will fail to result in the healthy development of the brain.

How to prevent ESS

According to current guidelines, infants less than two years of age should not get any screen time and kids between 2 and 5 years should be allowed to watch television or any other electronic gadget only for an hour. You will soon realise that your child will begin engaging in outdoor games and will embrace a normal growth.

First Published: Sat, December 28 2019. 23:00 IST