Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Screen Time for Kids Can Be Damaging

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The National Institutes of Health have been studying the effect of screen time for kids---the preliminary results are not good.

USA Today says, "Parents worst suspicions...have been confirmed by the results of a new study---and the effects may be further-reaching than they suspected."

Heads up for parents and grandparents regarding smartphones, tablets and other devices ion the hands of your kids.

And some thoughts on biblical parenting.

Be informed.

The National Institutes of Health have just completed a $300 million study on Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development engaging 11,874 children ages 9 and 10.

USA Today reports that "the first batch of data is scheduled to be published next year."

To their credit, the Institutes are saying the study is not conclusive yet, although the testing has been substantial. The 11,874 kids will be followed for the next 20 years according to the report.

However, the first findings are concerning, and parents and grandparents should be aware.

In writing about this today, I want parents to be informed. And there is a spiritual component, that is not discussed in the report.

Medical concerns.

Kids who spend more than two hours in front of a screen everyday score lower on language and thinking tests. This is worrisome because the average teen (age 9 and 10 ) spends up to 6 hours a day on their phone or tablet.

Children who spend upwards of 7 hours a day in front of a screen were found to experience a premature thinning of the cortex compared to their low tech peers.

The researchers are emphasizing these are preliminary findings, but, having read the initial findings, not all scientists are waiting for further results.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending parents avoid altogether, except for video chatting, in children under 18 to 25 months.

The NIH study is just one example of the growing effect of technology on our kids.

Another related study compares smartphone use to sleep deprivation and other problems associated with poor attention spans.

This is concerning since two-thirds of children take their smartphones to bed with them.

A Harvard Medical School study last year found that more screen time for 4 to 6-year-old's resulted in shorter sleep times. And they found that the blue-tinged light emitted by devices such as smartphones and tablets suppresses the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone vital to good sleep.

Digital addiction is becoming a reality with kids. This relates to video games, the internet, social media, and other device applications. Digital addiction also overlaps pornography addiction---yes, among kids too.

Experts say that digital addiction is like most other addictions---you can't quit. You can't stop. It causes problems in your child's day to day experiences--including panic if they misplace their smartphone or other devices. Those who study such things say there are obvious parallels with drug and alcohol addiction. And gambling. All involve the compulsion to continue playing or browsing.

One counsel I see often in the reports and studies is: "Don't use technology as a babysitter for young kids."

Finally, experts in the field are warning parents "that victims of digital addiction can experience destructive dependence, extreme change of personality, isolation, and physical signs during withdrawal."

The medical field suggests these practical steps to manage technology in the home and family.

  • Turn off technology one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year.
  • Use screens for a purpose and together rather than aimlessly and alone.
  • Dedicate car time conversation with no technology.
  • Be sure spouses have each other's passwords and parents have complete access to their children's devices.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that loneliness undermines health and is linked to early mortality. In fact, it's worse for longevity than being obese or physically inactive.

Technology can foster a sense of community through social media, but it can never meet the needs for personal relationships because it isn't a "relationship."

Bottom line. This is a spiritual matter.

Technology isolates us. A computer or handheld device is intentionally isolating. A screen is not a parent.

Jim Denison writes, "Here's the bottom line: God intends parents to be the pastors of their families. We cannot delegate their souls to their teachers at school, ministers at church, or friends online."

He says, "Fathers are told to 'bring [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord'" (Ephesians 6:4). We are to value our children as a 'heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3).

And Denison writes:

One of the many reasons I admire the Jewish culture is its commitment to the home and family. The father is responsible for teaching the Torah to his children. The parents are responsible for modeling Jewish faith and culture. The survival and prosperity of the Jewish people across forty centuries are largely due to this passionate commitment of each generation to the next.
The family is God’s invention and design for us (Genesis 1:28). But the devil hates all that God loves. If he can use technology to isolate children from their parents and infect them with pornography, violence, and digital addiction, he will.

Be Informed. Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Aware. Be Prayerful.