Health experts: Time to kill screens and send kids back to camp

Health experts are warning U.S. parents to stop using digital screens to reassure kids, sending them back to summer camp as COVID-19 quarantines subside.

Record increases in U.S. childhood obesity, teenage depression and parental burnout have created an urgent need for families to reduce their reliance on Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and video-streaming services as opportunities permit, they said.

Since the start of the pandemic, screens have replaced babysitters, friends and physical interactions — from curbing boredom to replacing play dates, Arizona-based parenting coach Laura Linn Knight said Friday. Parents are using them.

“Young people are seeing unprecedented screen use and it’s not working well,” said Mrs Knight, mother of two.

Mrs Knight, a former primary school teacher, is urging parents to discuss screen reduction plans with their children this summer. She recommends using timers, activity lists, backyard picnics and camping trips to keep them away from digital devices.

“This summer, let’s put aside excessive screen use and find healthier ways to connect with our children to support their physical and mental health,” she said in an email.

Research warns of the effects of screen addiction throughout the pandemic. According to a 2020 Instagram study, one-third of teenage girls say “Instagram makes them feel worse” even though they feel “can’t stop themselves” from logging in.

“Emerging research raises various warning signs that screen time may interfere with sleep, brain development, and social skills development, and may expose teens to content or images that may have potentially harmful effects,” said Mitch Prinstein, chief scientific officer at American Psychology. learn.

Mr Prinstein said while social media use “may help kids avoid loneliness” if COVID lockdowns resume this summer, it will do more harm than good in the long run.

“If safe face-to-face interaction is possible, then the science shows that digital media use can only be moderated,” he said.

From 2019 to 2020, screening time for 12- and 13-year-olds increased from 3.8 hours a day to 7.7 hours a day, according to a study published Nov. 1 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study found that nearly 80 percent of teens check their devices at least once an hour—and 63 percent of parents said their kids’ social media usage has increased during the pandemic.

In addition to video chatting, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of two. It recommends that children between the ages of 2 and 5 watch no more than an hour of high-quality programming a day.

There are no prescribed limits for school-age children, but the Mayo Clinic recommends that parents limit school-age children’s social media use and gaming as needed.

Mental health experts say screens hit children like cocaine, releasing dopamine in the brain, leaving them depressed as “high” levels decrease after each hit. Unlike dopamine, which is released during physical activity, it can make children feel worse over time.

“Screens not only lead to dopamine addiction, but also depression through ‘FOMO’ or fear of missing out,” said Laura DeCook, California founder of LDC Wellbeing.

Ms. De Cook, who leads a workshop on family mental health, added in an email that social media “mocks relationships and can prevent the developing teenage brain from making real social connections.”

“Adolescence and teenage years are hard enough without the misconception that ‘everyone lives a better, happier life than me’,” she said.

Ronald J. Rychlak, a law professor and representative of the University of Mississippi College of Physical Education, said the trend of screen addiction replacing physical activity has reached college levels.

Lawyers urge parents not to worry about the cost of outdoor activities and the dangers of contracting COVID-19 in group settings until their children are too old to change.

“While devices can provide educational benefits, they also reduce physical activity and face-to-face social interaction,” Mr. Rychlak said. “Help kids pass the time with books, games and outdoor activities.”

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