Experts in digital safety
15 April – World Mobile Free Day
- 34% of families do not set any screen time limits, and 7 out of 10 Spanish children have their own mobile phone.
- Children’s rates of anxiety and depression have increased 70%.
- 25% of kids and teens suffer from nomophobia, the irrational fear of staying a period of time without a mobile phone.
- 5 to 17-year olds need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
- 82% of kids don’t get enough time outdoors.
- 1 of 3 students has been a victim of some kind of bullying.
- 91% of teens have a smartphone, and 6 out of 10 parents have observed addictive behaviors in the last year.
- Blue light emitted by the screens harms neurons in the eyes, showing effects by age of 26.
- Limiting the use of screens by 1 hour a day improves the quality of sleep, increases happiness, increases the practice of sports and games, reduces the risks of being bullied and prevents addictions and health problems, according to an analysis carried out by Qustodio.
We’re behind screens these days to do just about everything: work, study, communicate with family and friends, shop, check the weather, order a taxi, and on and on. Our smartphones have become a part of us. In fact, according to a study by the UNIR, 25% of kids and teens suffer from nomophobia, the irrational fear of staying a period of time without a mobile phone.
Since the advent of smartphones and the ability to connect to the internet from almost anywhere, life has become more convenient, but the excessive use of screens has caused kids to do less off-line activity and has exposed them to risks online, all of which can affect their physical and mental health. According to a report published by the La Caixa Social Observatory, ‘Personal Well-being and the Use of Technology During Lockdowns’, the use of digital devices increased notably, exceeding 9 hours a day. In addition, according to data provided by INE, 7 out of 10 Spanish children have a mobile phone, and 34% of families do not establish a time limit on the use of screens.
For this reason, and coinciding with World Mobile Free Day (April 15), Qustodio, the leader in online safety and digital wellbeing for families, has made a list with 7 benefits to reducing screen time by one hour a day:
1. Better rest. Children have increasing problems when it comes to falling asleep and increased screen time during the pandemic hasn’t helped. 2 out of every 10 children is getting less sleep than before Covid, according to the data from the latest Qustodio survey. In addition, the use of devices close to bedtime reduces the secretion of melatonin, a hormone needed for quality of sleep. Reducing screen time, especially before bed, improves the quality of sleep and facilitates better rest. Qustodio also recommends not sleeping with devices in the room to remove the temptation to check updates in the middle of the night.
2. Happier kids. The internet and social networks are a door to the world and to influencers. Observing the idyllic lives that are presented in the digital environment leads minors to comparison and to a state of despair for not having what others have. The Barcelona Terapeutic Forum warns that the rates of anxiety and depression among young people have increased by 70%, and Save The Children warns that 1 in 4 children suffers some episode of these mental disorders. Keeping minors in touch with reality and enjoying everyday activities outside the digital environment can prevent such episodes or significantly reduce them.
3. Healthier kids. Spending less time in front of screens allows us to have time for other types of activities, for example, doing physical exercise and getting outdoors. According to the WHO, children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 17 should spend at least 60 minutes a day doing some kind of sporting activity and exceeding that time per day could have an even greater benefit for health. While performing intense physical exercise, more than 50 different hormones are activated and the body releases serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, which positively influence, not only the physical health of minors, but also has a great impact on the mood. Additionally, according to a report by the Technological Institute of children’s and leisure products, in Spain 82% of children play outdoors for less time than recommended. Playing outdoors and with other children favors the physical and psychological development of children, they acquire vital social and emotional skills for optimal development at all levels.
4. Better social skills. It is best for kids to play together face-to-face whenever possible, it’s key to learning social skills such as sharing, conflict resolution and empathy.
5. Safer kids. Bullying has not disappeared, but it has changed. Before problems appeared in the schools where they could be detected, now on mobile phones, the bully is at home and harder to detect. A report recently published by UNESCO shows that about 1 in 3 students in the world have been victims of bullying and it has increased by 70% in the last year due to the increase in the use of mobile devices, according to information provided by L1ght. Reducing the time of use of social networks or chats ensures minimizing the risk of exposure to this type of behavior.
6. Less addiction. According to figures from Pew Research, 91% of adolescents connect to the internet with their smartphone, and a survey by Qustodio states that 6 out of 10 parents have observed addictive behaviors in the last year. Games and apps are programming to hook us, and minors are especially susceptible. Cutting back on time online is key to stopping addictive behavior.
7. Healthier eyes! A study carried out by the Complutense University of Madrid reveals that the light emitted by the screens causes the loss of neurons in the eyes, manifesting its effects from the age of 26. In addition, Oftálica‘s pediatric ophthalmology professionals warn that around 30% of vision problems that children present are a consequence of the use of video games and electronic devices. Reducing exposure to blue light and doing other types of activities outside of technology help with good ocular development and prevent future vision problems.
“It is very important that we make sure that our children have healthy habits, not only in the digital environment, but also outside of it,” says Maria Guerrero, an expert psychologist in technology and family at Qustodio. “As screen time grows, so does the evidence that it is harming our kids mentally and physically. That’s why it is so important parents help their kids disconnect from screens and enjoy the time doing offline. Going mobile free for a day, is a great way to create awareness. And reducing screen time by an hour a day and setting consistent screen time limits is another great thing parents can and should start doing today. ”
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