Study: Using screens to distract children worsens behaviour

A boy watching content on phone.PHOTO| Shutterstock

Frequently using digital devices to distract children aged between three and five years from unpleasant and disruptive behaviour like tantrums increases emotional dysregulation, particularly in boys, a study has revealed.
“Using mobile devices to settle down 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 Jenny Radesky, the lead author of the study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
Dr Radesky, a developmental-behavioural paediatrician at the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, noted that utilising a mobile device during those times can unintentionally teach kids that certain actions can result in what they want. Additionally, it eliminates the chance to impart on them the skills to handle challenging emotions.
Parents are advised to create a comfortable space for kids to gather their emotions, perhaps something with beanbags, blankets, or a tent, so they can express their irritation, rage, or sadness without being punished with a time-out. According to the study, the message should be: “You’re not being bad for having big emotions, you just need to reset. We all need to reset sometimes.” 
Between August 2018 and January 2020, 422 parents and 422 children between the ages of three and five participated in the study.
Researchers examined comments from parents and other caregivers regarding how frequently they utilised technology as a soothing technique and correlations to emotional reactivity or dysregulation symptoms over six months.
The World Health Organization suggests that “sedentary screen usage (such as watching TV or videos) should be no more than one hour; less is ideal” for children ages two to four, urging parents to “engage in reading and storytelling”