More than two hours a day of screen time may affect children’s mental, emotional and physical well-being, says Malaysian expert

The excessive use of electronic gadgets by children can stunt their mental and emotional development, besides having the risk of developing short-sightedness at a young age. — Picture by gordana jovanovic/Istock.com via AFP
The excessive use of electronic gadgets by children can stunt their mental and emotional development, besides having the risk of developing short-sightedness at a young age. — Picture by gordana jovanovic/Istock.com via AFP

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — The excessive use of electronic gadgets by children can stunt their mental and emotional development, besides having the risk of developing short-sightedness at a young age.

Dr Azura Ramlee, an ophthalmologist at the Prof Muhaya Eye & Lasik Centre (PMELC) said the increasing number of cases of myopia among children due to the frequent use of gadgets was an issue that should be addressed urgently.

“The use of gadgets among children should not exceed two hours a day,” she told Bernama.

She said a study done in 2005 showed that 9.8 per cent of seven-year-olds suffered from short-sightedness and 34.4 per cent for those aged 15.

“The use of gadgets among children (at that time) was still (comparatively) low, and now the statistics are expected to increase with uncontrolled use. Many patients who come to treat blurred vision have a habit of looking at digital screens for long periods,” she said.

Dr Azura added that the American Academy of Pediatrics had recommended no screen time for children under two years, while it was one hour a day for three- to five-year-olds, one to one and a half hours a day for children six to 10, and two hours for children aged 11 to 13.

She said the recommendations could serve as a guide for parents to start controlling their children’s time with gadgets.

Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh had previously stated that the influence of gadgets on children in the country was at an alarming rate, and a poll by the National Population and Family Development Authority found that 78.3 per cent of parents in the Klang Valley allowed their children to have gadgets.

Meanwhile, Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia counselling psychologist Prof Datuk Dr Mohamed Fadzil Che Din said excessive use of gadgets among children could negatively impact their mental and emotional development processes, if not handled properly.

“For example, if there is no gadget (to play with), an aggressive child will get angry and show behaviours such as kicking doors, banging the desk and so on, while those who are not, may show their anger in latent ways such as sulking, staying quiet and running away,” he said.

Dr Mohamed Fadzil said, however, that children’s addiction to gadgets could be overcome slowly through exposure to other activities such as drawing.

Meanwhile, Nurul Aida Abd Razak, 35, said her son Muhammad Fahmy Mohamed Fadzly, now nine years old, had been wearing spectacles since he was six.

“One of the reasons my son has to wear spectacles is because he likes to use the mobile phone in the dark at night to watch cartoons and play games.

“The lens power of my son’s glasses is 250 on both sides and now I limit his use of gadgets. He can only use it during weekends for one to two hours a day,” she said, urging other parents to control their children’s use of digital gadgets to avoid such a predicament. — Bernama

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