Doctor’s Day Special: Best Pediatricians’ Advice on Balancing Digital Screen Time in Kids

New Delhi (India), July 1: On Doctor’s Day, we delve into a critical topic concerning children’s health: managing digital screen time. Pediatricians emphasize the importance of striking a balance in today’s digital age. Excessive screen exposure can impact children’s development and health. Here’s expert advice on fostering healthy screen habits for young minds.

Dr. Venugopal Reddy I, Medical Director and Consultant Pediatrician – Ovum Hospital, Bangalore

On the occasion of Doctor’s Day, it’s crucial to address the growing concern of digital screen time among children. While technology has its benefits, excessive use can impact physical and mental health. As a Pediatrician, I advise setting clear boundaries. For children under two, avoid screens entirely except for video calls. For older kids, limit recreational screen time to no more than two hours daily. Encourage outdoor play, reading, and family interactions to foster healthy habits. Create tech-free zones, especially during meals and before bedtime, to ensure quality family time and better sleep. Parents should model good screen habits and engage in activities with their children to build stronger connections. By balancing digital consumption, we can protect our children’s health and promote a more enriching environment for their growth and development.

Dr. Punit Krishan Malhotra, MBBS, MD Pediatrics(Gold Medalist), FPN (RGUHS), Panipat

As we celebrate Doctor’s Day, Dr. Punit Krishan Malhotra, a renowned paediatrician underscores the crucial task of managing digital screen time for children amidst today’s pervasive technology. Excessive screen exposure can detrimentally impact physical health, emotional well-being, and cognitive development, leading to issues like sleep disturbances and sedentary lifestyles. Conversely, judicious screen use can enhance educational opportunities and technical skills essential in the digital era. Pediatric guidelines recommend tailored approaches for different age groups, emphasizing interactive co-viewing and limiting screen time to maintain a healthy balance with other activities like sleep and physical play. Practical strategies include creating structured family media plans, promoting outdoor activities, and prioritizing educational content. By fostering a supportive environment that values offline interactions and balanced media consumption, parents can help children navigate the digital landscape responsibly. This Doctor’s Day, reflecting on pediatric insights reminds us of the importance of nurturing holistic child development while harnessing the benefits of technology, ensuring a future where children thrive in both physical and digital realms.

Dr. Piyush Jain, MBBS, DCH, Sr Pediatrician, Former President IAP, East Delhi Chairman Genesis Neurogen, Neurogen Rehab Centre for Special Needs Children like Autism and Cerebral Palsy, Delhi

In today’s digital age, balancing screen time for children is crucial. While technology offers learning opportunities, excessive screen time can lead to health issues like eye strain, sleep disturbances, and reduced physical activity. Parents should set clear boundaries, promote physical and social activities, establish ‘screen-free’ zones, and model healthy screen habits. The goal is not to eliminate screens but to use them wisely. By fostering a balanced approach, children can develop healthy digital habits,” recommends Dr. Piyush Jain, Senior Pediatrician. Parents can help by limiting their own screen time, monitoring their child’s screen time, and encouraging outdoor and creative activities. Set and enforce rules consistently, monitor age-appropriate content, and create screen-free zones. Other ways to reduce screen time include creating a screen-time schedule, avoiding screens before bedtime, encouraging physical activities, offering alternative entertainment, educating children about screen time’s impact, engaging in family activities, leading by example, monitoring usage, and creating a reward system to praise efforts.

Dr. Rajeev Kumar Mittal, MBBS, DCH (Lucknow), PGPN (Boston University), Sanjivani Medical Center, Meerut

Dr. Rajeev Kumar Mittal emphasizes thoughtful management of screen time for children by setting clear rules tailored to each child’s needs and interests. Prioritizing face-to-face interactions for younger children fosters language and developmental skills. Establishing device-free zones during family time and before bedtime enhances bonding and supports healthy sleep habits. Engaging together in digital activities helps children explore safely, while parental guidance ensures they navigate online content responsibly. Using tools like Apple’s Screen Time and Google’s Digital Wellbeing dashboard allows monitoring and discussing screen usage to promote digital wellness. By modeling balanced screen habits themselves, parents can effectively influence their children’s behavior, encouraging breaks and keeping devices out of bedrooms to maintain a healthy screen-life balance. Dr. Mittal’s advice underscores the importance of parental involvement and proactive management to foster a positive relationship with technology while safeguarding children’s well-being in today’s digital age.

Dr. Sachinder Jain Nawal, MBBS, DCH, MD, Pediatric, DM (chest + Resp), International Postgraduate, Pediatric Certification, Consultant at Sunrise Hospital and Arihant Hospital, Gurugram

Balancing digital screen time for children is essential in today’s technology-driven world. As pediatricians, we understand that digital devices can offer educational and entertainment benefits, but moderation is key. Excessive screen time can negatively impact a child’s physical health, social skills, and overall development. Parents must set clear boundaries and create a structured environment. Encourage regular breaks from screens and promote physical activities to keep children active and healthy. Ensure that screen time does not interfere with sleep, homework, or family interactions. Parents should also be good role models when it comes to digital usage. Engage in digital activities together with your children and discuss what they learn to enhance the positive impact of technology. Quality content is just as important as the quantity of screen time. Foster an environment where digital usage is balanced with other enriching activities, such as reading, outdoor play, and family time. By working together, we can create a healthier digital environment that supports the well-being and development of our children.

Dr. Sanjay D Swamy, MBBS, DNB (Paediatrics), FPCC (IAP), FPIC (UK) Consultant Paediatrician and Intensivist, Cloudnine hospital, Bangalore

Dr. Sanjay D Swamy underscores critical concerns regarding screen time across different age groups, emphasizing the detrimental effects on physical and mental health. For toddlers, exposure to screens and blue light can disrupt melatonin secretion and hinder brain development. Adolescents face risks such as violent media exposure, posture-related issues, and cognitive impairments. Excessive screen use correlates with obesity, visual problems, sleep disturbances, and developmental challenges like behavioral issues and reduced social interaction. To mitigate these risks, the Indian Academy of Pediatrics recommends strict guidelines: no screen time for children under 2 years, limited supervised exposure for 2-5 years, and up to two hours of supervised, educational, and non-violent content for 5-10 years. Dr. Swamy advocates practical strategies like avoiding screens during meals and in bedrooms, using parental controls, and promoting physical activities and creative play. By prioritizing real-world interactions and limiting screen time, parents can foster healthier development and well-being in children amidst the pervasive digital environment.
 
Dr. Indrasish Ray Chaudhuri, MD Paediatrics, MRCPCH (UK) Pediatric Neurologist at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi

Dr. Indrasish Ray Chaudhuri emphasizes the detrimental effects of excessive screen time on young children’s development, advocating for a balanced approach that includes non-electronic activities. He underscores the importance of tactile exploration for comprehensive learning, contrasting it with passive screen viewing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), he recommends restricting screen exposure for children under 5 to one hour daily of high-quality programming to foster language and social skills development effectively. Highlighting the evolving family structure, Dr. Chaudhuri raises concerns about increased susceptibility to neurobehavioral disorders like autism and ADHD due to reduced interaction with adults, particularly in nuclear families where both parents work. He suggests weekend visits to amusement parks or grandparents’ homes as vital opportunities for children to engage meaningfully with older generations and enrich their communication skills. By promoting real-world interactions and diverse activities, parents can mitigate the negative impacts of screen overexposure, nurturing holistic development and ensuring their children’s well-being and social growth.

Dr. Anil Vaishnavi, Sr Consultant Paediatrician & Neonatologist, Gurgaon

Dr. Anil Vaishnavi, Sr. Consultant Pediatrician & Neonatologist, emphasizes the crucial need to balance digital screen time for children to support their overall development and well-being. His comprehensive advice includes setting clear limits and creating schedules that integrate screen use after completing tasks like homework and chores, alongside implementing parental controls to monitor and restrict screen time effectively. Dr. Vaishnavi advocates promoting alternative activities such as outdoor play, sports, and hobbies like reading or music to encourage physical and creative engagement. He underscores the importance of parental role modeling by limiting personal screen time and engaging in non-digital family activities while emphasizing screen-free zones in bedrooms and during meals to foster healthy sleep habits and family interactions. Additionally, he recommends selecting educational and age-appropriate content, using interactive learning tools, and ensuring regular breaks to mitigate eye strain and promote physical movement. Dr. Vaishnavi concludes by highlighting the significance of open communication with children about balancing screen time, ensuring adjustments to rules as they mature, thereby supporting their holistic development across all facets of life.

Dr. Sreenath S Manikanti, MBBS, MD(Ped), DCH (London), MRCPCH (UK), Senior Consultant Pediatrician & Neonatologist, Kauvery Hospital, E-City, Bangalore

In today’s digital age, managing screen time for children is crucial for their overall development,” says Dr. Sreenath Manikanti, Senior Pediatrician. “While technology can be a valuable educational tool, excessive screen time can lead to issues such as eye strain, sleep disturbances, and reduced physical activity. Exposing young children less than 2 years to screen time can be detrimental to their development. Studies have shown early & prolonged screen exposure increases the risk of developing ASD ( Autistic Spectrum Disorder ) in children.

Parents need to set clear boundaries and create a balanced routine that includes outdoor play, reading, and family interactions. Encourage children to take regular breaks from screens and engage in activities that stimulate their creativity and physical well-being. Remember, the goal is not to eliminate screen time but to ensure it’s used in a way that complements a healthy lifestyle. Open communication and setting a good example by moderating our screen use can make a significant difference. Let’s work together to foster a balanced digital diet for our kids.

As Doctor’s Day approaches, the collective wisdom from pediatricians highlights the crucial need to manage digital screen time for children. Incorporating strategies like setting limits, promoting physical activities, and fostering family engagement ensures a balanced approach that supports their overall development and well-being. These insights empower parents to navigate the digital age responsibly, nurturing healthy habits early on.

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