SPECIAL REPORT: Electronics a Potential Harm to Young Children

SPECIAL REPORT: Electronics a Potential Harm to Young Children

Children face harms when given handheld electronics too soon, and too much.
For many of us, it’s difficult to go a day without using any handheld electronics. This has become the reality for many adults and even children. Many parents find it easy to slip a smart phone into the hands of a cranky toddler to keep them occupied. Research shows that children's health and social skills can suffer if exposed to too much screen time. Cell phones and other electronics can be potentially dangerous to their child if they're introduced too early.

Most children are exposed to electronics the day they’re born. Family and friends who can’t see a newborn in person can catch up online thanks to social media. Webcams are also an easy way for grandma across the country to see her new grandchild.

"There’s no screen time for children before two years of age," said Tammy Else, a Child Life Specialist at Lutheran Hospital. She says parents should carefully monitor their children’s screen time.

"I think that the most important thing is that when the child is focused on the screen and not their cues that’s when we tend to see effects in their relationship building and if they can’t build a relationship and trust and bond with kids, peers their own age at a young its going to be even more difficult when they get older," said Else.

Too much time in front of the t-v or on the phone can impact more than social cues.

"When they’re not used appropriately or balanced appropriately with normal developmental play meaning going outside, riding a bicycle, doing arts and crafts, socializing with other kids, that’s when it could be detrimental to their health," said Else.

Else's job requires her to prepare children before going into surgery.

"It used to be us as a child life person providing distraction maybe providing some guided imagery, distracting them blowing bubbles, now you have an app on the iPad to pop bubble wrap or to blow bubbles," she said.

A frequent patient that works with else is Bethann Fawcett and her nine-year-old daughter Ebony.

"Ebony is battling her third time with stage four Neuroblastoma. It’s a childhood cancer and it’s chronic."

Ebony has gone through many surgeries. She uses electronic devices before going in and then afterward as a reward.

"Electronics to us are basically a reward system, she knows that with different procedures she gets iPad time," said Fawcett.

"When I grew we played outside and got dirty, kids don’t get dirty these days. I didn’t want her to be completely plugged in. Even though we're enclosed in the hospital we can still have fun with arts and crafts," said Fawcett.

Else says parents have to demonstrate limited electronic behavior at all times.

"When you’re sitting at the table eating with your child it’s important to spend that time to engage in conversation, ask them how their day was and develop those social skills they need when working with peers."

Young ebony has grown to value her time away from electronics.

"I like tv's but I mostly like to draw so I really don’t like to play on [electronics] a lot," said Ebony.

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