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Child psychologists Warn Parents of the dangers of screen time addition. Here are 8 ways to identify it.

Child psychologists Warn Parents of the dangers of screen time addition. Here are 8 ways to identify it.

Dr Mona Ibrahim Youssri, a leading child psychologist in the UAE, has notified of the adverse influence of screen time addiction on children, which has increased during the current lockdown. 


The Clinical Director and Family Counsellor at the Hayati Health Center in Dubai, Dr Youssri states that as the threat the pandemic subsides, a bigger one is looming: 


The lingering impact of screen-time addiction on children leading to behavioural problems “from destructive behaviour and a reduction in social skills to attention problems and a rise in sleep problems.”


“Today, children are at the epicentre of a new pandemic,” says Dr Youssri. 


“It is now becoming more apparent that the threat of the virus itself pales in comparison to a much more menacing danger – screen time. 


In whichever form from televisions to hand-held devices, our children are becoming addicted to the eye-catching appeal of the screen.”


She said more kids are now exposed to development concerns, as more young ones follow the example of their older peers or parents. 


“In the last 5-6 years, we have seen a big rise in the number of children with speech delay and symptoms more common with autism such as decreased eye contact. 


Almost every pre-schooler between two and four who visits our centre showing signs of developmental delay is skilfully using their parents’ smartphone.”


Dr Youssri says stopping screen exposure yields almost immediate improvements. 


“My advice to parents of toddlers is dodging all devices before the age of 3 years according to APA recommendations.”


She said the pandemic has exposed children to increased screen time as they were forced to remain indoors for many months. 


“Whereas a certain amount of screen time for entertainment purposes was manageable before, with up to six hours of daily distance learning using video chat and other digital platforms, any additional screen time whatsoever borders on the extreme.”


It is estimated that Tweens (ages eight to 12) and teens (13 to 18) consume about eight to 10 hours of media content per day, overall, not including for work or school, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP).


“While an adult will have developed mechanisms to cope with extreme screen exposure, the still-developing mind and body of a child is ill-equipped and easily overwhelmed. 


Too much screen exposure and the ‘connected’ isolation it comes with can have far-reaching consequences for a child’s brain development, behaviours, social skills, and attention capabilities,” she adds.


The Hayati Health Center, a dedicated intervention facility based in Dubai for children with developmental and behavioural disorders and autism, began offering online teletherapy for their patients during the COVID-19 lockdowns.


Asha Kanoujiya, the Lead BCBA and Child Behavior Analyst at Hayati Health Center, offers a list of tips parents can try at home to gradually reduce a child’s screen dependency. 


“For any behavioural intervention to work effectively, being consistent is key. 


If your child has been used to the lifestyle of independently choosing what they’d want to do during their day, and if you have no control over what activities they engage, then this is going to be a challenge.”


8 signs your child could have screen addiction:

1. Elevated screen time and the inability of the child to restrain it (unable to put it down).

2. Tired and losing interest in any other activity, even if previously enjoyed.

3. Is preoccupied with games or videos and talks about them regularly, even when not engaged.

4. Declines to meet with friends. Prefers staying home alone to any social activity.

5. Retraction symptoms; express anger through fits if a gadget is taken away.

6. Starts lying, lies about usage time or sneaks a gadget into bed behind your back.

7. Increased tolerance for play, so if one hour was satisfying before, two hours now are not.

8. Is only happy when screen-facing.