Doing Life Together

child phoneI see so many parents hand their toddlers a cell phone to play with when they are out and about. The toddler seems totally engrossed in the screen, but does this have a negative effect on the toddler?

This is an important question because not only do we have concerns about the impact of screens on a child’s interpersonal development, but the physical consequences of staring at too many screens is also in question.

In 2013, a study by British researchers found that children and young adults are becoming “screen sighted,” or what we call nearsighted. Since smart phones were launched in 1997, there has been a 35% increase in nearsightedness, thought to be related to looking at small screens, causing eye strain over time.

Apparently, holding a cell phone 8 inches from your eyes versus the 16 inches used to view magazines and newspapers is creating vision problems. Over time, smart phone use can create headaches and eye strain, so limited time on these devices is needed by all.

The biggest concern of course is that constant use of a smart phone takes away from the child’s face-to-face interactions needed for emotional development. Excessive screen time is the problem. The biblical advice of moderation in all things applies to technology use. The best advice is not to hand a cell phone to a toddler in order to occupy his or her time. Instead, interact with the child, tell imaginative stories, act out a story, engage in creative play, or provide a toy that can be manipulated with interaction—all better ways to stimulate healthy development.

And as for us adults, the same strain is affecting us. So model for your children reasonable screen time as well. Children who see you reach for your phone at every opportunity will want do the same.