By Hank Pellissier
Do you have "indoor kids" who enjoy 24/7 interaction with electronic toys? They won't break their arms playing Xbox, but the mental risk is significant. Young children shouldn't view screens more than two hours per day — it's damaging to their developing neurological systems, resulting in hyperactivity and shortened attention spans.Those “safe” two hours can’t go unchecked, either. Specific cartoons are especially debilitating. A University of Virginia study reports that watching just nine minutes of fast-paced shows like SpongeBob SquarePants impairs a four-year-old's executive function. Tween and teen boys should be steered clear of violent video games. An Indiana University study reports that combat games (think Call of Duty) reduce kids’ frontal lobe activation to such a low level that it matches those of teens with disruptive behavior disorders, leading to aggressive, impulsive behavior. Luckily, not all video games are so detrimental: speed competitions are a harmless option. Teenagers emailing and texting might also be dumbing down their brains; technology trend forecaster Paul Saffo asserts that these activities lower their IQ by 10 points.(Learn more about screens and kids.)
What you can do: Get your kids into the exciting three-dimensional world of the great outdoors. (Learn more on how fresh air will give your kids healthier bodies and brains.) Another great screen break: have your kids match their wits against each other in chess, which has been credited with elevating problem-solving ability and pattern and object recognition. Other good games with brain-boosting potential include Scrabble, backgammon, and other board games.
Next: Positive parenting »
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