Health experts: It’s time to turn off the screens and send the kids back to camp

are warning US parents to stop pacifying their with digital and them back to summer as their COVID-19 quarantine wanes.

They say record increases in obesity for US children, teen depression and parental burnout make it urgent for families to reduce their dependence on Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and video streaming services while allowing the opportunity.

Since the pandemic began, screens have replaced babysitters, friends and physical interaction, and parents are using them for everything from suppressing boredom to changing playdates, Arizona-based parenting coach Laura Linn Knight said on Friday.

“Youth screen use is at an all- high and the effects are not good,” said Ms. Knight, a mother of two.

Knight, a former elementary school teacher, urges parents to discuss a screen reduction plan with their kids this summer. To distract them from digital devices, she suggests using timers, activity lists, backyard picnics, and camping trips.

“This summer, let’s put aside the overuse of screens and find healthier ways to connect with our kids to support their mental and physical well-being,” she said in an email.

Studies have warned of the effects of screen addiction throughout the pandemic. According to a 2020 study by Instagram, a third of teenage girls said “Instagram made them feel worse” despite feeling they “cannot stop” from signing in.

“Emerging research has uncovered several warning signs that suggest that screen time may interfere with sleep, brain development and social skill development, exposing young people to content or images that could have potentially harmful effects,” said chief science officer Mitch Prinstein. at the American Psychological Association.

Mr Prinstein said the use of social media could “help children avoid loneliness”, but if the COVID lockdowns continue this summer, it will do more harm than good in the long run.

“If safe face-to-face interaction is possible, science suggests that digital media should only be used in moderation,” he said.

Screen time among 12- to 13-year-olds doubled from 3.8 hours a day to 7.7 hours a day between 2019 and 2020, according to a study published November 1 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The research found that nearly 80% of teens check their devices at least once an hour, and 63% of parents say their kids’ social media use has increased during the pandemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two do not spend time in front of a screen, except for video chats. It does not recommend more than an hour of high-quality programming a day for children aged two to five.

There is no set limit for school-age children, but the Mayo Clinic recommends that parents restrict social media use and gaming among school-aged children as needed.

Mental health experts say screens hit kids like cocaine, making them depressed by releasing dopamine in their brains as the “high” decreases with each hit. Unlike dopamine released in physical activity, it causes the child to feel worse over time.

“Screens not only create dopamine addiction, but can also cause depression through ‘FOMO’ or fear of missing out,” said Laura DeCook, California-based founder of LDC Wellbeing.

Ms DeCook, who runs mental health workshops for families, added in an email that social media “imitates human relationships and can hinder teens’ developing brains from making real social connections.”

“The teenage and teen years are hard enough without this misconception that ‘everyone lives a better and happier life than me,'” she said.

The trend for screen addiction, which replaces physical activity, has reached the college level, said law professor Ronald J. Rychlak, a representative of faculty athletics at the University of Mississippi.

The attorney urged parents to resist their fears about the cost of outdoor activities and the danger of COVID-19 infection in group settings before the children are too old to change.

“While the devices can provide educational benefits, they also cut back on physical activity and face-to-face social interaction,” said Mr. Rychlak. “Help children fill their time with books, games and outdoor play.”

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