Tablets and iPhones and Kindles..oh my!
This generation of children will not know a world without immediately accessible information. They will not live in a world where information is unable to be accessed. Every question is answerable with the right choice of words entered in a search engine. Computers now augment the classroom with lessons and tests being presented digitally where once they were presented by a teacher.
The side effects of technology
As therapists, we recognize that a child sitting in front of a screen for hours is not healthy. But does science support that extended exposure to the devices is harmful?
- Survey of 900+ children in an advantaged school found children with found girls using devices 219 min/day and boys 207 min/day. These children showed an increased incidence of neck/should discomfort and increased visual symptoms. (1)
- Another study of 502 children showed that the more screens a child had available in their bedroom the more likely the child to be obese and have poor sleep habits and a sedentary lifestyle. (2)
These studies help show that what a child is not doing (movement, etc) while on tablet devices is having a negative impact on their health.
Computers in the Academic Environment
School systems boast of their computer to student ratio equating the use of computers and tablets to quality education. But extended use of computers cause the same problems they do for adults, and perhaps more as children tend to not to be as self-aware of these problems, show more adaptability and work in environments without optimal lighting (3)
A study of 320 children showed an increased incidence of vision problems in children who played video games on the computer for over 30 minutes per day. As screen time increased, so too did the visual complaints. Complaints like headaches, dizziness and diplopia and decreased stereopsis (binocular depth perception) we all common among these children. (4)
Extended use of computers and screens lead to problems because of what the child is not doing while on the device and the devices are linked to increased vision and musculoskeletal problems. So what do we do?
Throw Them All Out?
Tablets and computers are part of our culture now with everyone interacting with devices throughout the day. There must be a balance in the use of these devices.
A properly balanced play diet that would include screen time but also include social, active and creative play. An examination of the skills learned during screen time would make screen time more valuable while balancing this with active play IRL (“in real life”)
LearningWorksForKids.com offers a great search engine to help identify apps that can be useful for teaching skills to children and help screen time be useful.
Want to Learn More??
Vision Mechanic.Net has some great videos and articles produced by Dr. Charles Boulet and Robert Constantine, Occupational therapist.
(1) Straker, L., Harris, C., Joosten, J., & Howie, E. K. (n.d.). Mobile technology dominates school children’s IT use in an advantaged school community and is associated with musculoskeletal and visual symptoms. Retrieved December 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29103354
(2) Chaput, J. P., Leduc, G., Boyer, C., Bélanger, P., LeBlanc, A. G., Borghese, M. M., & Tremblay, M. S. (2014, July 11). Electronic screens in children’s bedrooms and adiposity, physical activity and sleep: do the number and type of electronic devices matter? Retrieved December 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25166130
(3) Kozeis, N. (2009). Impact of computer use on children’s vision. Retrieved December 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776336/
(4) Rechichi, C., De, G., & Aragona, P. (2017, November 01). Video Game Vision Syndrome: A New Clinical Picture in Children? Retrieved December 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28850642