Electronic Gadgets Do Your Toddler More Harm Than Good, Study Reveals

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Baby playing with a laptop - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.12.2022
Parents these days often resort to electronic devices to calm a fractious child. But the latest research shows that such tactics could be much more harmful for children than parents could ever have imagined.
A study has found that children whose parents turn to electronic devices as a means of keeping them diverted often suffer behavioral disorders, and this is particularly the case for boys, especially hyperactive ones.
The study involved 422 children aged between three and five and 422 parents of those children. It lasted six months, recording the children's emotional reactions, mood swings, sudden changes in wellbeing, and increased impulsivity.

“Using mobile devices to settle a young child may seem like a harmless, temporary tool to reduce stress in the household, but there may be long-term consequences if it’s a regular go-to soothing strategy,” said lead author Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Researchers have noted that it is at an early age that children are actively susceptible to mood swings and temper tantrums, which can further encourage parents to use gadgets because they haven't the time or energy to calm the child themselves.

“Caregivers may experience immediate relief from using devices if they quickly and effectively reduce children’s negative and challenging behaviors,” Radesky said. “This feels rewarding to both parents and children and can motivate them both to maintain this cycle... The more often devices are used, the less practice children – and their parents – get to use other coping strategies.”

Among the possible methods that do not require electronic gadgets, the scientist highlighted the following ones:
Name the emotion and what to do about it: Naming emotions can both help the child to understand what he or she is feeling and show the child that parents do care for them, which might help to manage emotions more easily.
Sensory techniques: Channeling children's energy into particular forms of action (such as swinging, hugging, jumping on a trampoline, listening to music or looking at a book) to help calm their down.
Color zones: Naming emotions as colors (blue for bored, green for calm, yellow for anxious/agitated, red for explosive) may help a child to understand better his or her emotional state and respond correctly.
Offer replacement behaviors: Helping children to find a safer behavior pattern (hitting a pillow instead of a sibling, clearly stating their needs, etc) might resolve some communication problems and resolve conflicts.
“All of these solutions help children understand themselves better, and feel more competent at managing their feelings,” Radesky said. "In contrast, using a distractor such as a mobile device doesn’t teach a skill – it just distracts the child from how he or she is feeling. Kids who don’t build these skills in early childhood are more likely to struggle when stressed out in school or with peers as they get older.”
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