Toddlers can become addicted to screens in less than six months.
Juliana Freeme, Johannesburg-based occupational therapist with a MSc degree in Neurodevelopment and director of the TechnoLife Wise Foundation, made this statement at the Annual Toddler Seminar held on 29 June 2019 at the Radisson Blue Hotel in Sandton.
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"The overuse of technology and screens can easily grow into technology or screen addiction. This is especially true for toddlers. The result is that they miss critical developmental milestones during early childhood, including physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual developments.
"Many children are then misdiagnosed with, for example ADHD or autism," says Freeme. "Obesity, sleep disorders and lower grades are also the result of so-called technology addiction."
According to Dr Marlena Kruger, founder of the TechnoLife Wise Foundation and technology addiction expert, it is essential that South Africans become aware of the neuroscientific impact of the overuse of technology.
"It not only affects our health, but also our well-being and development as humans," she warns.
Also read: Children under the age of two are watching double the amount of screen time they should be
Dr Kruger offers the following tips to parents looking to move away from screens:
- Replace screen time with independent play time, such as building Lego blocks, reading a book or drawing pictures.
- Have real-life conversations if you must wait instead of spending time on a screen.
- Replace screen time with high-quality family time. Build a puzzle together, or play board or word games such as Monopoly, Chess and Scrabble.
- Replace screen time with exercise such as walking, running, dancing, sports and stretches.
- Read REAL books – NOT e-books. You will love the touch, smell and feel of a real book. If you need to study, real books are also better for attaining better understanding of concepts and deep learning.
She says it is clear that "all parents need to become much better informed and critical before they use any digital screens as their tech-babysitters for a short-term break" because of the long-term negative outcomes.
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Compiled for Parent24 by Elizabeth Mamacos