By reducing the amount of television watched, video games played and computer time spent by young children can lead them into being much healthier as they grow, according to a leading psychologist.
As The Irish Examiner
reports, Dr. Aric Sigman says that by age seven, a child that is born today will have spent a collective year in front of some screen or another.
"Screen time appears to have created the three-parent family," said Dr. Sigman
, pointing out the excessive usage of televisions, computers and video game consoles by kids and referring to them as "electronic babysitters."
The typical 10-year-old has a mix of at least five televisions, computer monitors, tablets and/or mobile phones, he stated.
"Children routinely engage in two or more forms of screen viewing at the same time, such as TV and laptop," Dr. Sigman said according to BBC News
Citing an extensive library of published clinical studies, he pointed out the risks involved with spending large amounts of time in front of a glaring screen. The amount of time kids spend lazily engaging in their favorite TV programs, Facebook games and iPad apps, while not using such time to go outside puts them in danger of getting heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
"Screen 'addiction' is increasingly being used by physicians to describe the growing number of children engaging in screen activities in a dependent manner," Dr. Sigman said in relation to prolonged screen exposure damaging depth perception and causing problems with focus due to increasing the brain chemical, dopamine.
levels can be increased by healthy, natural behaviors like sex; however it can also be stimulated by drug use and other means of addiction. Dubbed a "response to 'screen novelty'" by Dr. Sigman
, one of the purposes of dopamine is to bring pleasure to certain parts of the brain when a primal urge or an addiction is fed.
"Perhaps because screen time is not a dangerous substance or a visibly risky activity, it has eluded the scrutiny that other health issues attract," said Dr. Sigman. His advice
- among many others' - is as simple as this: "reduce screen time."
"There is a well-established literature showing the adverse effects of screen experience on the cognitive development of children under three, and the US Paediatric Association for example has recommended no screen time before this age," said Prof Lynne Murray
, of the University of Reading. "If children do watch, however, adverse effects are mitigated by watching with a supportive partner - usually adult , who can scaffold and support the child's experience, and by watching more familiar material.
"A lot of screen material is not well designed for a child's cognitive processes, eg loud, fast changing stimulation - this is attention grabbing, but does not help processing."