The influence of screens on children's development

Posted on: 16.09.2021.

Author: mjug

In recent years, children's exposure to screens has become very topical. Through various studies, scientists arrive at the same finding - that prolonged exposure to screens adversely affects mental health. Unfortunately, children are placed in front of screens from as early as infancy, and according to surveys we conducted within the MBM Mental Health Center in kindergartens with which we work, preschool children are sometimes exposed to them for several hours. Our experience has shown that help is most often sought by parents of children of around 4 years of age who have difficulties in language and speech development and children between 6 and 10 years of age who have frequent outbursts of anger. This causes a large amount of stress in the family to all household members, which is most often accompanied by numerous conflicts.



What happens to the brain and behavior when a child is overly exposed to screens?

Endorphin, or as it is called, the happiness hormone, is similar to opiates, and our body naturally secretes it. When a child plays a video game, endorphins are secreted and the child develops the need to be in that state all the time, which leads to addiction. This can most often be seen in violent reactions of crying and anger when they need to stop playing/watching, and frequent focus when they are about to be in front of the screen again. Endorphin secretion can be stimulated by learning new things and accomplishments.

In the long term, the threshold of tolerance for frustration is lowered; children get everything immediately and with one tap on the screen/ click of a button, and there is no need for delaying need, patience, waiting, or emotion control. Thus, self-control cannot be adequately developed either.

Furthermore, the level of excitement rises extremely, so when screens are turned off, "ordinary" games are no longer interesting and boredom sets in, because the brain is still looking for that type and level of stimuli that playing with Lego cubes does not provide in the same way.

What is extremely important is the significant increase in tolerance to violence if violent content is watched/played. This is primarily visible through transfer, i.e., playing out seen scenes in everyday life. This is because children find it difficult to distinguish reality from the virtual world. When you take someone's life in a game, you can fix it by playing that level again, which of course is not possible in real life.

Also, various challenges on social networks that end in various physical consequences impair mental health in terms of self-image (comparison with others), while some even have fatal outcomes.




What are the positive consequences of reducing screen time?

Benefite koje ćete u kratkom vremenskom periodu primijetiti su veća kvaliteta sna te brže usnivanje. Samim time će dijete biti odmornije sljedećeg dana što će doprinijeti samokontroli.

Kad izdržite i prevladate početni period negodovanja, plača i protestiranja od strane djeteta, stvarate mu više prilika za razvoj samostalne igre, fokusa, pažnje i koncentracije te kreativnosti. Isto tako, možete uživati u zajedničkim aktivnostima kojima stvarate i poboljšavate odnos.




How much screen time is recommended?

Since children's brains develop the most during the first two years of life, it is recommended that children younger than that do not look at screens at all. After that, some educational content can be gradually introduced up to a maximum of half an hour a day. A pre-schooler should not be exposed to screens for more than an hour.

Are there still some benefits to screens?

As we live in the digital age, we can neither expect to isolate a child from any type of screen, nor is it necessary. It is important that you, as a parent, are aware and that you manage the amount of time your child spends in front of the screen and that you carefully choose the content they consume. It is extremely important that the parent is educated about different platforms, games, and applications, because knowledge is the only weapon you have. The ban on screens nowadays makes no sense because when a child enters the school system, they come into contact with screens, and only good information and a good relationship with parents can keep them on the right path.


Lastly, it is important to remember that parents are an example to their children and it is important how much time you spend in front of the screen as well!


Patricija Haček Zuber, master of psychology