Technology is here to stay. It is a tool that we use daily and that guarantees us a range of features, making our day-to-day more practical and intuitive. It has numerous potentials, however, in early childhood it can be more harmful than beneficial. The trivialization of this theme is frequent, since it is a resource that keeps kids and adults entertained.
Technology belongs to our routine, including that of children and it is evident how appealing it is to these age groups, as they tend to be fixed on the screen and interact less with adults. This behavior has immediate positive effects, as the child is quiet and distracted for that period of time. However, with the increasingly early introduction and use of technology, it is important to understand whether there are consequences of this exposure in the medium and long term.
What is important for a child’s healthy growth in early childhood? A good psychomotor and cognitive development requires children to stimulate their sensory system, which allows them to get to know the world, through contact with the outside, touch, smells, contrasts, adventure and social interactions, something that is lost. when they are in front of a screen.
The first three years of life are crucial for development. A child who is exposed to screens at this stage and where there is little control over their use may have psychological (ex. anxiety) or physical health problems (ex. obesity), less social interaction, difficulties in communicating and expressing emotions (due to interaction speech) and hyperstimulation will tend to cause attention and concentration problems, thus affecting the child’s growth. The time that is spent in front of the screen is time that is not invested in developmental aspects such as exploring and playing and that in the future will bring relational, emotional and behavioral difficulties.
The behavior that parents assume in front of the child and that is learned by the same is an important factor in the relationship that will develop with the screens. When there is a rule at home that there are no screens at the table, it is essential that all family members respect it, so that the child can learn to respect it. Parents who ban screens and use them in front of their children often send a confusing message to children.
In 2021, given the restructuring of family routines in the face of the pandemic, the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics created guidelines aimed at caregivers regarding the use of technologies:
Up to 18 months: avoid exposure to screens, with the exception of video calls.
Between 18 months and 2 years: little or no exposure to screens. If exposed, opt for educational content and limit it to one hour per day.
Between 3 and 5 years: limit to one hour a day. Opt for alternatives such as books and/or toys with, for example, characters they know from television.
Between 6 and 10 years: between an hour and an hour and a half a day. Track content that is watched and allow use after tasks are completed (eg homework).
Between 11 and 13 years: up to 2 hours a day. Find a balance between online activities and the rest.
The definition of rules by the parents is a factor that promotes a healthy development of the child. The introduction of screens in a gradual and age-adjusted way can be an asset and not have severe consequences in the future.