How to Wean Your Kids off Smartphones

  • By Hong Jun-ki

    July 10, 2019 13:14

    More and more young children learn how to use a smartphone before they can even stand up, and many parents are stumped how to prevent them from spending all their time staring at a screen.

    The Chosun Ilbo asked experts what parents can do to prevent terminal brain melt in their children and found that the only way is to keep them on a short leash.

    The World Health Organization advised in April not to show infants and toddlers cartoons or other TV programs on smartphones and to expose them to as little as possible to the devices until the age of two. Once they can no longer be stopped, the WHO advises letting them use the devices for no more than an hour at a time.

    In Korea, kids are exposed to smartphones at an increasingly early age and end up using them for long periods of time. Shin Yoon-mi, a psychologist at Ajou University Medical Center studied the parents of 390 infants and children aged two to five in Gyeonggi Province in 2015 and 2016 and found that 12 percent began using smartphones before their first birthday. Twelve percent used them on a daily basis.

    A study conducted by the Ministry of Science and ICT in 2017 showed children aged three to nine used smartphones seven times a day on average and for 10.9 minutes at a time. That means they use them for more than an hour every day. Usage time was even longer on weekends at 10.1 times a day and for 13.6 minutes at a time.

    But smartphone use hinders the physical and mental growth of children. Shin at Ajou University Medical Center, said, "Children who spend long periods on smartphones at an early age can suffer problems with concentration, sleeping disorders, obesity and delayed language development."

    Smartphones are also bad for their eyes. Jun Ik-hyun, an eye doctor at Yonsei University's Severance Hospital, said, "Frequent smartphone use leads to poor eyesight, which is why you can see so many children wearing glasses. Extended smartphone use fatigues the eyes and can cause dry eye syndrome."

    Doctors advise parents to expose their kids to smartphones as late as possible. Once they begin to play with them, their exposure time should be minimized.

    Academic Chung Mo-kyung said, "Instead, go outdoors and exercise with your child or read a book with them." When children play with smartphones, parents should watch content with them and engage them in discussion about it.

    "Often, parents who use smartphones in front of their kids tell them not to play with them," Shin said. "We must realize that children learn from their parents' behavior."

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