The Covid-19 pandemic showed that the lack of control over the use of screens by children and adolescents is a recurring problem in the family environment. Even before the health crisis imposed isolation, experts already listed at least 15 diseases that affect these boys and girls because they spend too much time on electronics.
From the increased incidence of eye problems, such as myopia, even cases of suicide are related to the excessive use of devices.
The situation reached a point where the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics (SBP) assessed the need to produce a manual with guidelines for parents, educators and also for children and adolescents on the “health of children and adolescents in the digital age”.
The document is from 2016, but has been updated, and the new version presented earlier this year. There are situations in which screens should really be prohibited, such as for children under two, at the time of meals and one to 2 hours before bed.
There are also contexts in which it is only necessary to have the mediation of an adult so that, in addition to time, the contents to which the kids are being exposed are evaluated.
Neuropediatrician Ricardo Cassa argues that, even in the age groups where the use of screens is allowed, the access time is not continuous, that is, it is important that there are intervals.
“Screen exposure stimulates the individual’s reward center, and increases the release of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that plays a crucial role in desire. So, the harm is easy to understand: when the reward system is stimulated in excess, the desire also increases, and the person develops characteristics that will resemble those of a drug addict ”, he explains.
The abusive use of electronics has gained such a proportion that, remembers the neuropediatrician, the World Health Organization (WHO) established, last year, a new classification of disease related to games: it is the disorder of games, presented as one of the health problems mental.
“Games are often used by children and adolescents, and for many consecutive hours. They have characteristics of compulsive behavior, they get angry just thinking that they will stop playing. Addiction to other screens also causes this behavior. Sometimes, they do not want to stop for lunch, or do not support commuting home without using any equipment ”, analyzes Ricardo Cassa.
Compulsion, impulsivity, irritability, anxiety, sleep disorders are some of the behaviors observed in children and adolescents who make excessive use of screens, according to the neuropediatrician. If the use of electronic devices is even earlier, before the age of two, the negative effects are also significant.
“Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter in the area of concentration. So, the youngest will have difficulty in language development. Then, they start to have delays in literacy and, as their age increases, they start to have other learning difficulties ”, says Ricardo Cassa.
EFFORT TO SEE
Another problem, already registered in medical offices, is the increase in the incidence of myopia. Pediatric ophthalmologist Claudia Maestri says that the excess of electronics has caused eye accommodation, since there is a great effort to see very close to the screens.
“The brain, then, will understand that to focus it is necessary to stay close, and there will be accommodation, while the development of (infantile) vision occurs from afar”, he stresses.
Pediatrician Rodrigo Aboudib, coordinator of the Southeast region at SBP, adds that there are studies that demonstrate a direct relationship between the abusive use of screens and cases of suicide.
“It has a very clear graph that relates the number of hours screened to suicide. This curve is ascending and, when it exceeds four hours of screen per day, the increase is exponential ”, maintains Aboudib.
Every individual exhibits behaviors derived from both the genetic part and the environment. The two combined result in more pronounced signs and symptoms, which can be temporary, permanent or trigger more serious psychological disorders.
“What is part of our genetic code cannot be changed. We are left with the environment. The loss of a parent, for example, can trigger a stressful situation for children. The pandemic proved to be so challenging which led to a post-traumatic stress condition for 30% of children (according to SBP). Another environmental factor closely related to the increase in psychological signs and symptoms is exactly the use of screens “
If the health risks were not enough, the use of electronics in an excessive way, and without adult supervision, makes children and adolescents more susceptible to violence.
Doctor Marco Antônio Chaves Gama, a member of the SBP Digital Age Health Working Group, draws attention to the practice of grooming, an expression in English that means grooming. The thug impersonates a person of the age group of those who are trying to seduce and, little by little, obtains information that will facilitate the crime.
“If there is no good communication at home, these children and adolescents become trapped in the digital world. There, everything is found, and there are a lot of bad people. The person is seductive, makes it seem the age of the adolescent, who starts to vent, recount family situations. At a certain point, the criminal says: ‘I know where your father works, where your mother is. If you don’t take your clothes off for me, I’ll kill one of the two. ‘ And then, he takes it off ”, he exemplifies.
HOW ABUSE USE AFFECTS CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS
- Mental health disorders, such as anxiety, irritability and depression, with associated suicide cases
- Self-injurious behaviors, especially when participating in challenges
- Attention deficit disorders
- Sleep-related problems
- Sedentary lifestyle and obesity
- Visual problems: higher incidence of myopia
- Orthopedic problems: cervical spine and tendonitis
- Hearing problems
- Digital addiction
- Increased susceptibility to cyber abuse, such as sexting and cyber rape
- Social isolation
- Mental conditioning
- Eating and self-image disorders
- Vulnerability to cyberbullying cases