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Psychologist reveals how many hours kids should be allowed to use smartphones – Daily News

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  A two-hour limit on smartphone time can boost children’s brain power, a new study has found  Scientists discovered a clear link between restricting screen use and improved thinking skills  Canadian researchers looked at 4,520 children aged eight to 11 for the study, which showed that longer breaks from devices help cognitive function, while outside activity benefits physical health  So what does too much time with technology actually do to children’s brains, how can you help them cut down, and what should they be doing instead? What can too much screen time do to our children’s brains?  Psychologist Dr Susan Marchant-Haycox says brain imaging has shown that frequent users of smartphones tend to have smaller grey matter in the anterior cingulate cortex – the brain region that serves cognition and motor control – which can inhibit a person’s ability to pay attention  She adds that obsessive screen time can cause a greater risk of depression, anxiety, insomnia and impulsive behaviour One study suggests that smartphone obsession can cause greater levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid, GABA  Susan says: “GABA in the brain’s cortex inhibits neurons, compared to levels of the neurotransmitter called glutamate-glutamine, which energises brain signals  “That will create a chemical imbalance in the brain, which can cause anxiety What can too much screen time do to our children socially and physically?  Spending too much time glued to a screen can make children introverted due to a lack of social interaction, says Dr Marchant-Haycox  This means that youngsters can “become prisoners to their own mobiles or tablets”  Dr Michael Hogan, a lecturer in psychology at the National University of Ireland, says that smartphone use is a modern extension of children watching television after school – except now they’re watching on portable devices  He said of the gadgets: “They’ve got better and better, which means they are certainly more engaging than they used to be – and will continue to no doubt get more sophisticated There are lots of techniques which are used to draw people back in again and again  “Our social motivations are pretty much universal and have not changed in the last 20 years, but instead the social engagement is being moved to the screens  “It’s quite easy to engage on a device, so this screen time is taking away from face-to-face time There is the risk of a child becoming more insular

”  A study published this year showed that youths who use social media a lot are at greater risk of sleep disturbance that leads to obesity, while there was a 40% decrease in obesity in those whose parents limited their screen time Smartphones and creativity  Dr Marchant-Haycox argues that excessive use of mobiles and tablets can also inhibit creative thinking – but there can be some advantages to a child’s development, depending on how the devices are used  “Some research suggests that mobile devices could encourage and support imaginative play, rather than just keeping children occupied,” she says “But a time limit of mobile or tablet usage must be monitored by parents”  Dr Hogan suggests analysing what your child is like in the presence of other youngsters, to see whether they actively engage in physical, real-life scenarios, or stay buried in their gadgets  He says: “If they turn to their phones when they are in a stimulated environment it may mean you need to monitor their time use ”  And he says that while some video games may seem more stimulating than other things, it’s about mixing up different activities, in the way you might vary your child’s diet Read More Top Stories from Mirror Online What is checking behaviour?  Many of us check our smartphone every few minutes, out of habit  Often, children will copy each other, so if one is playing a game on their phone after school, others are then more likely to do it too  Not only can this prevent children from engaging socially, it can also leave them feeling stressed if they can’t check their phones  A lot of games and social media sites are also designed to be addictive, which can worsen “checking behaviour”, explains Dr Hogan  “The practical advice is to ask your children if they can try and monitor their own behaviour – why are they checking their phones, what do they hope to gain from it, and what are they worried about missing out?  “It’s also about getting them to tune into their emotions when they don’t check their phones  “It’s an extension of a ‘fear of missing out’ – and about realising missing out is not going to be a threat to their life or behaviour  “They need to gain some control and autonomy over their own behaviour” How much is too much?  Dr Hogan says “it would be a mistake to assume there is a limit of time use” because every child is different He adds: “It’s about getting that balance Be aware of what your kids are engaging with and set limits  “There is an obvious trade-off: the more time you spend on social media or playing video games, the less time you have are engaging in real-world physical, social or intellectual activities ”  He adds that context is also very important For example, watching TV with friends or family can be interactive and fun, and help reinforce relationships  Dr Marchant-Haycox explains: “Research suggests that children spending two or more hours on mobile phones can impact on brain functioning  “But much more research needs to be done, especially as we see a continuous increase in social media obsession and more and more children are becoming prisoners in their own homes ”

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