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Don’t spend too much time on screens

BY: Rebecca Kwei
It was Basic Design and Technology (BDT) period for the Form Two students of the Kaneshie Awudome ‘3’ Junior High School in Accra. Here, Robert Adu Ansah with hammer in hand and Kwabena Okyere tries to bend  the rod they were using to fix the seat of a broken chair. Looking on from behind is their mate, Benjamin Agyekum Amoah. Picture:  LYDIA ESSEL-MENSAH
It was Basic Design and Technology (BDT) period for the Form Two students of the Kaneshie Awudome ‘3’ Junior High School in Accra. Here, Robert Adu Ansah with hammer in hand and Kwabena Okyere tries to bend the rod they were using to fix the seat of a broken chair. Looking on from behind is their mate, Benjamin Agyekum Amoah. Picture: LYDIA ESSEL-MENSAH

The Medical Director of Mission Paediatrics, Dr Marilyn Marbell Wilson, has advised parents not to allow their children to spend so much time on mobile devices, television screens because that could affect their communication and intelligence.

“Children under two years should not be watching anything whether educational or not, on either a tablet, phone or television; and those above two years should spend a maximum of one hour a day on these screens,” she said.

Dr Wilson, who was speaking in an interview, noted that anything beyond these would be excessive and had been known to affect speech and language, as well as intelligence of such children,” she pointed out.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that for children below two years, there should be no screen time at all while those above two years could have a maximum of one hour a day.

Additionally, she said spending too much time behind screens could cause children to be obese because they do not move about to enable them to shed any energy.

She observed that kids right from turning nine months were made to watch cartoons because their mothers were so busy and it was convenient to put the children in front of television sets or provide them with tablets to engage them so that the adults would be able to go about their household chores.

Dr Wilson noted that many parents were not aware that excessive screen time by children was not as helpful as was being touted that it could be useful since many believed it would expose children to educational programmes.

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She pointed out that although those educational programmes may teach facts, developing the building blocks for both communication and intelligence were much more important, especially in the first two years of a child’s life than acquiring those facts.

Dr Wilson, who is also a Neuro-developmental Paediatrician, explained that the development of the brain of a child when it came to communication worked better when the child was interacting with a living human being stressing that the first two years of a child’s life was the most important period of building the foundation for the brain.

“A human being interacting and talking with a child is what is needed for the pathways in the brain to start building a foundation for communication and it is very different from just watching or listening to another human being talk from a screen,” she said.

Dr Wilson said when someone is talking or interacting with a child, he or she uses the hands, eyes, emotions and voice and those were the foundations in communication and also for intelligence.

She said for children below two years, parents should try as much as possible to buy toys or anything that they could play with; spend time with them by lying down and singing rhymes, playing tickling games, go out and enjoy nature or anything that involved the parent or caregiver talking to the child and moving around.

Furthermore, Dr Wilson said when the kids were older, it was easier because they needed less supervision and should be allowed to skip, play football, adding that, “it is definitely better to invest in a trampoline or swing in your house for your children than an ipad or big television screen.”