Excessive Screen Time and Sugary Food Can Affect Child’s Brain Development

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Excessive screen time and a high intake of sugary food have been identified as factors that can affect a child’s brain development, potentially leading to intellectual disability. This concern was highlighted by Dr. Michelle Sy, a fellow in the Child Neurology Society of the Philippines, during a health forum organized by the Department of Health (DoH).

According to Dr. Sy, the human brain undergoes rapid development between the ages of 2 and 3. During this critical period, prolonged exposure to screens can have a negative impact on the child’s brain. The constant exposure to rapidly changing images can wire the brain to expect high levels of stimulation, leading to issues with inattention. Additionally, excessive screen time can deprive children of social experiences, play, and movement, which are all essential for proper brain growth.

Language development, higher cognitive function, and sensory pathways also develop rapidly during the early stages of a child’s life. A study published by the National Institute of Health supports the notion that early screen exposure is associated with lower cognitive abilities and academic performance in later years.

However, with the increasing prevalence of technology, many parents resort to giving their children gadgets to keep them occupied while they attend to their daily household activities. While this may seem like a convenient solution, it is crucial to consider the potential long-term consequences on the child’s brain development.

As of January 2024, the DoH reported approximately 1.4 million cases of disabilities in the country, with 93,142 cases specifically categorized as intellectual disability. Intellectual disability is a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests in childhood and is characterized by deficits in intellectual functioning and adaptive skills. Experts emphasize that such developmental disabilities typically occur before the age of 18.

Insufficient sensory or intellectual input during a child’s formative years can result in issues with brain growth, including reduced attention span, lower brain volume, and decreased intelligence. Genetic conditions, exposure to toxins during pregnancy, diseases, injuries acquired after birth, and inadequate medical care are among the potential causes of intellectual disabilities. However, the majority of cases remain of unknown origin.

To support optimal brain development, children require a balanced diet that includes various essential nutrients. Dr. Sy recommends supplementing their diets with vitamins A and D, protein, iron, folate, and iodine. It is particularly important to reduce sugar intake during this critical period, as studies have shown that excessive sugar consumption can negatively impact learning ability, memory, and concentration.

Children with intellectual disabilities require significant support from their families and communities as they transition into adulthood. It is essential to provide them with opportunities to develop their skills and abilities, even if their intellectual capacities may be limited.

In conclusion, excessive screen time and a high intake of sugary food can have detrimental effects on a child’s brain development, potentially leading to intellectual disability. It is crucial for parents and caregivers to be mindful of these factors and make informed decisions regarding their children’s screen exposure and dietary habits. By prioritizing social experiences, play, movement, and a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, we can support healthy brain growth and development in children.

Source: The Manila Times

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