Limit exposure of children to gadgets, says expert - GulfToday

Limit exposure of children to gadgets, says expert

a large number of students in the UAE have been spending five hours daily on social media using their smart phones

Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Improving technology has made parents go over the moon when their children become adept and masterfully navigate screen gadgets, and a psychiatrist who has specialised in Psychotherapy has given this advice: Be a role model. Be in control of the screen time. Limit your own screen time. Let nature be part of family life because nature heals.

Hayati Health Centre (Dubai) clinical director Dr. Mona Ibrahim Youssri also said: “Let your children grow to be lovely, lovely human beings.”

The family counsellor hosted the “Webinar on Over Exposure to Screen” in late Wednesday afternoon.

Youssri raised the red flag on the overexposure to screen time and repeatedly emphasised the crucial role of parents in limiting the hours of their children to all the gadgets. She backed this up with her own observational studies in the last few years on families seeking her advice regarding children’s hyperactivity, attention span challenges, autistic behaviour, violence, and tendencies to lie and deceive.

She mentioned the possibility of children becoming victims of human trafficking. She cited a case of a 15-year-old who learnt to molest young children and adolescent girls into serious trouble with their boyfriends because of orientations to videos which in the first place their age groups should not be exposed to. She volunteered to have known from cases she had handled how teenagers label the passing and sharing through the social media sites of unprintable photographs.

“Imagine young children saying ‘I will kill you,’ because of their exposure to violent games. That is very sad,” Youssri said.

Youssri deemed it was obligatory to re-open the topic of over screening, pointing out that the global lockdown and restrictive movements resulting from the Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) had led to screen overexposures, bad to mental health and harms the development of a person as a social being.

She stressed that online education which is different from social media time, should not be lengthy. She said like parents who may be on remote work, students should learn to stay away from any form of screen gadget thereafter.

In a related issue and relative to COVID19, Youssri, in response to a parent’s concern on whether or not to homeschool her young child (Nursery), said: “It is always better to send your children to school to develop their social skills. But make sure the school is safe, hygienic and observes all the protocols. If not, let the family (play a big role in the development of his social skills.”

Her recommendations for the screen time: for infants to three years old, no screen time and screen gadget whatsoever; three to five years old, one hour per day and educational videos that will develop their social skills and empathy; six years old to 12 years old, two hours per day and no violent games; 13 years old to 18 years old, 30 minutes a day.

A recent report says self-isolation has driven more and more children to move online during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to an unprecedented rise in screen time and raising safety risks for millions of young people, as per the United Nations, and the issue deserves serious attention.

As pointed out by Howard Taylor, Executive Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, a public-private collaboration between UN agencies, governments, industry, regional bodies, civil society and others, school closures and strict containment measures mean more and more families are relying on technology and digital solutions to keep children learning, entertained and connected to the outside world.

But what is being forgotten is that not all children have the necessary knowledge, skills and resources to keep themselves safe online.

More than 1.5 billion children and young people have been affected by school closures worldwide.

Many are online now taking classes and socialising.

Spending more time on virtual platforms can leave children vulnerable to online exploitation as predators capitalise on the COVID-19 pandemic.

As suggested by UN officials, governments need to keep child protection services open and active during the pandemic and train health, education and social service workers on the impact that COVID-19 may have on their well-being, including increased online risks.

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