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Too much screen time can impact the health of your baby. Here’s how

Published on:28 August 2021, 15:00pm IST
New parents often expose their babies to screen time so that they can get a breather. This can have long-term ramifications. Think before you act!
Falak Hanif
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screen time
There's more to life than screen time! Image courtesy: Unsplash

In today’s tech-savvy world, it is impossible for many of us to think of any entertainment that does not involve a screen. New parents enter parenthood with a strong determination of not introducing their kids to phones and screen time, until they realize that playing the baby’s favourite cartoon makes the baby eat and gives you a breather. In no time, it becomes a daily routine for each meal. This can also mean that the baby is exposed to a screen for at least three to four hours in a day.

What is its impact on the baby?

Screen time is the number of hours spent watching tablets, mobiles, LED screens, as well as television.

  • Excessive exposure to screens can cause headaches, eye strain, dry and irritated eyes.
  • The light emitted can affect the biological sleeping routine, which can lead to obesity, poor attention, pain, and irritability.
  • Excess exposure to this light affects the peripheral retina, which is used during the night. Moreover, the exposure to high energy blue light leads to disproportionate enlargement, thereby causing myopia.

We now realise that the shortcuts we take to get work done for the baby, can have lifelong effects. On asking some parents who have been consciously trying to reduce screen time, they came up with some tips that have helped them.

Read More: Is your child having difficulty sleeping? Here are 7 ways to make your her bedtime easy

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Spend quality time with your baby instead of giving them screen time. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Parents share tips that helped them shield their baby from screen time
  1. There’s a famous saying ‘Be what you want your child to be’. Hence, avoid using your gadgets too often around your babies, unless it’s important.
  2. Majority of the parents mentioned that spending time with their baby helped in reducing the baby’s screen time.
  3. Maintaining a limited time frame during which the gadget can be used, is helpful. At other times. the gadgets are placed somewhere that is not reachable.
  4. Show them a few pictures of damaged eyes, and in very easy terms, explain to them how excessive watching can affect their eyesight.
  5. Involve them in activities which will help in their cognitive development. Get a nice illustrated storybook, which you can read to them. Get a game, which involves learning new colours, number games etc. 
  6. Teach them mindful eating, with special focus on where they eat. Also, teach them how to  chew properly.
  7. Always encourage them to participate in outdoor and educational activities that they are interested in. In this manner, they won’t waste their time indoors in front of the screen. 
  8. It is a bad idea to let kids watch something while eating, as they do not realise how much they are eating. This can later lead to obesity.
  9. Less chewing of food can also lead to low metabolism. 
  10. Watching something while eating will also take away from the quality time you would spend with your family on the table.
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Excess screen time at a young age can impact vision. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Here’s what the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends:

Infants (less than 1 year) should:

  • Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day, while awake. 
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.  
  • Have 14–17 hours (0–3 months of age) or 12–16 hours (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.
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Sound sleep is important for babies. GIF courtesy: Giphy

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than an hour at a time (for example, prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time. For 1-year-old kids , sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than one hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

Falak Hanif Falak Hanif

Falak Hanif, Executive Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bengaluru (Old Airport Road)