Neuroscientist not too concerned about screen time
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Cape Town - Many parents worry about children’s screen time and may want to control the amount of time spent in front of screens.
Children start early with screen time, whether it be on the tablet, cellphone and television. This is for an array of reasons, such as entertainment, or it could be educational.
Neuroscientist Kevin Thomas said people should not worry quite as much about screen time as they have been. There have been major reviews that found effective screen time on mental health outcomes are very small.
“What they are doing seems to be more important rather than how much they are using it but what they are doing. If they are engaging actively like using educational apps, parents are sitting with kids and talking to them about what they are seeing on the screens, that is probably more helpful than if kids are just sitting and just passively taking in content.
“There may be negative effects of people scrolling through their Facebook time lines, Twitter feeds, Instagram just taking things in without posting or reacting that sort of passivity may lead to some negative consequences. Again not how much but what you are doing during screen time,” said Thomas.
Educational psychologist Genevieve da Silva agreed with Thomas’ sentiments.
“I do agree that the search power we have with the whole of mankind's knowledge in the palm of your hand is quite a powerful tool for education and exposes especially young people to a world of opportunity that they wouldn't have had before. This gives inputs that lead to brain development. However, we need to caution that screen time is not the replacement or the only source of education. It is an incredible tool and can be used in gaining knowledge, but the acquisition of knowledge itself is not the totality of education,” said Da Silva.
She added that education is an ongoing learning experience, and we learn through every interaction and experience that we have.
“While screen time will definitely add to knowledge acquisition, if we negate cooperative interaction with people, we lose that in our educational experience. If we negate critical thinking and challenging what we learn and evaluating, we lose that experience in education.
“If we do not go about to create own ideas and putting our thoughts together, then we short circuit what human knowledge is about, and that is about learning, growing, understanding and creating. Learning takes place through our entire bodies, so if it is just our eyes and ears that are engaged in the screen, maybe just our fingertips,” said Da Silva.
She told the Weekend Argus it’s very different watching what incredible things live under the sea and different being the researcher/scientist that is in the sea and seeing it for themselves and discovering and researching it. “Yes, it is a wonderful tool, but we need to caution against it becoming everything,” said Da Silva.
Mind you, many parents may disagree with this, saying that they believe that other studies indicate that screen time is bad for their kids in some sort of way.
Angeline Karelse, a mother of a two-year-old, said she does not allow her daughter to watch too much television, and she doesn't allow her to watch any kind of show.
“There are specific shows that she watches that are very educational, and then now and then she will say she wants to watch a movie. I won't take her tablet out to people because I believe she needs to socialise wherever we are, and I can’t drop her tablet in her lap and tell her to occupy herself.
“She needs to be part of conversations or play with the kids that are there. Sometimes she will watch and then come play with us. She is not constantly in front of the tablet or television. If I feel it is too much, then I will tell her okay, now this is enough,” said Karelse.
Mama Magic said research showed that children spend more time on activities using electronics than they do on any other activity. This averages out to about seven hours per day (according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP*).
They listed the side effects of too much screen time, sleep problems, obesity, behavioural problems and perhaps violence depending on what they are watching.