From shopping to communication, entertainment to education, we’re tech-dependent in most areas of our lives. And this dependence is being transferred to our children as well. We’re letting tech gadgets tutor our kids, entertain them–and also shower them with massive amounts of EMF radiation. Which is bad news for their physical and mental development. Thankfully, this problem has a solution. You just need to replace these gadgets with EMF-free toys that offer the same value minus the risk of heavy EMF exposure.
There are hundreds of alternatives to EMF-based gadgets which you can give your child without interfering with their learning and entertainment. This post explores EMF-free toys, along with several other topics that will help you take better care of your little ones. So, let’s dive into it.
Babies and Screens Do Not Mix
The American Psychological Association (APA) says that you shouldn’t expose children under 24 months to screens. And if your child is between two to five years old, their screen time should be less than an hour a day.
Despite this, surveys tell us that most parents let their children use screen-based gadgets for a lot more time than the recommended limits. According to economist Weiwei Chen Ph.D., in the United States, children under two years average 3.05 hours of screen time every single day.
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This is not good for their mental development, says a research study from the University of Calgary. In children under two years, screen use impacts behavioral, cognitive, and social development.
Despite the concerns, screen-based media for babies and toddlers promising stimulation and education has been on the market for years. Take the “Baby Einstein” videos, for example.
Experts have made it absolutely clear that a screen is not an effective tool for teaching young children. This is because screens take face-to-face interactions away, which, per APA, is crucial for effective learning.
Pediatric research says that children under the age of three view videos as irrelevant to real life. This was confirmed in an experiment where researchers showed kids under three a video of a toy being hidden in a room. They placed the toy in the same room as in the video, but the subjects could not find the toy.
In their second experiment, the researchers made the screen look like a window and played the same video. In this experiment, the success rate of finding the toy in the room was much higher.
These experiments show how real-life learning plays a crucial role in children’s development.
Besides this, prolonged screen-viewing has also been linked with slower brain growth and language delays.
Screens and Your Child’s Brain Development
The human brain constantly builds new neural connections and discards the lesser-used ones. And digital media plays an active role in that process, according to Paediatrician Michael Rich. Excluding real-life learning and appointing screens to tutor kids hinders healthy brain growth.
According to a National Institute of Health (NIH) report, children who spent more than two hours a day doing on-screen activities scored significantly lower on language and thinking tests. Additionally, children with more than seven hours a day of screen time experienced thinning in the brain’s cortex region, which is related to logical reasoning and critical thinking.
“Interacting almost exclusively with screens would be like working out only your arm muscles and nothing else. You would have really strong arms muscles, but at the expense of overall fitness,” says behavioral pediatrics expert Jennifer F. Cross Ph.D.
This is why there needs to be a healthy balance between on-screen and off-screen learning.
Gadgets Drain EQ
Children start developing social and emotional abilities right from birth and hit new milestones as they age.
For instance, when babies reach three months, they’ll start enjoying playing with their caregivers and will cry when the play stops. At this age, they also begin communicating through their face and body and begin to imitate facial expressions.
When they reach seven months, children will start responding to their names and recognizing their mothers’ voices. Most babies at this age also enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror. As they hit these milestones, their socio-emotional senses grow simultaneously, which allows them to build connections with other people to fulfill their social needs.
In short, healthy socio-emotional development is crucial for an individual to function effectively in society as an adult. And gadget use at an early age can heavily affect this development.
Author Cheri Fuller once wrote that “emotion is the first learning window.” This statement stands true as emotions encompass pleasure, comfort, fear, anxiety, and more, which are fundamental for healthy socio-emotional growth.
The ability to recognize, understand, and engage with others’ emotional states is the strongest emotional stimulation that promotes brain development. This involves interacting with others who respond correctly to the child’s emotional condition. Research shows that children who use gadgets like cell phones, tablets, and video games from an early age seem to have less control over their emotions. They tend to get angry and out of control when they’re disturbed or their gadgets are out of order.
Excessive time on screen can also lead to tech addiction, resulting in social isolation and causing their social abilities to be underdeveloped.
The Digital Gaming Argument
How digital gaming impacts a child’s brain growth is a well-studied area but without a concrete conclusion. Due to this, there’s a debate between experts as to whether playing video games is good or bad for children’s overall development.
It is undeniable that gaming is fun, it improves children’s problem-solving skills, and because of the internet, it is sociable too. In this sense, it can be beneficial if done in moderation. But the fact is, video games are highly addictive. They’re designed in a way that rewards the player with tiny achievements, so the dopamine in their brain fires up and they find it hard to stop playing.
According to experts, the first and obvious downside of digital gaming is that it interferes with your child’s studies. There are two factors involving video games that cause your child to perform poorly in school.
Number one — since it is highly addictive, children spend an enormous amount of time playing those games. This, however, is not as pressing because parents can restrict how long their children spend playing video games.
The problem is the second factor. Nowadays, video games have realistic graphics, unworldly situations, and never-ending rewards, making the content in school seem dull. Due to this, the child will have low motivation in studying, difficulties focusing, and a reduced attention span.
And besides this, some of these games expose the young player to violent, graphic, or sexualized content. Although most video games come with an age rating, this has little to no impact on preventing children below the recommended age from playing them.
Video games like these can have a huge emotional impact on children, especially on younger kids. A 2018 study from Science Daily also links violent video games to aggression in children.
Kids are More Vulnerable to EMF
Up until now, it’s pretty clear that using electronic gadgets and watching screens from an early age is not healthy for children’s physical, emotional, and psychological development. But the effects of the gadgets don’t end there.
Devices like cell phones, tablets, or anything connected to wireless networks expose your child to a massive amount of EMF (that is, radiation from electromagnetic fields).
As an adult, your body is fully developed, which gives you the ability to fight the ill effects of EMF to some degree. Despite this, it does affect you and can lead to numerous health problems in your body. Children’s bodies, meanwhile, aren’t fully developed. So whatever effect EMF has on you is amplified several times on them.
Epidemiologic studies have given us extensive evidence of EMF’s health risks on children. For instance, one study links constant EMF exposure to the onset of childhood leukemia.
Besides this, EMF can also interfere with a child’s physical and mental development, which creates massive problems in the later parts of their lives.
I’ve written a separate post covering the effects of EMF exposure on children in more detail, so do give it a read.
What Can You Do?
Young children need entertainment and education. And tech gadgets are the easiest way to provide them with both of these things. However, there are a number of alternatives methods of learning and entertainment. And one of the most promising alternatives is EMF-free STEM toys.
STEM toys are fun, educational, and most importantly, you have the option to choose the ones that don’t shower your child with EMF radiation.
These toys are designed to challenge children’s brains and help them develop skills like logical reasoning, decision making, information processing, and many more. Most STEM toys in the market are EMF-free, but you’ll have to make sure that’s the case when buying.
What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. Experts say that early childhood is the best time for STEM exposure. And because of this, lots of manufacturers are making STEM toys geared towards promoting learning, curiosity, and knowledge application.
Benefits of STEM Toys
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics — these fields have an image of being complex in nature. And it is true if you look at these subjects as an adult without a strong foundation. However, if you expose your child to these subjects from an early age, it will be beneficial for them in later parts of their lives, as they will already have a strong base.
The benefits of STEM toys don’t end here. With these toys, they’ll also learn skills which they can apply to whatever field they choose in the future. Here’s a list of those benefits.
Problem Solving Skills
Whether it’s in your personal or professional life, problem-solving is an important skill for an adult. STEM toys are designed in a way that encourages original thought processing and cognitive learning. They encourage independent thinking in children, which helps them overcome hurdles using their intelligence.
These toys present unique challenges where the user has to find solutions to win the game. This does two things — it makes them approach the problem independently and also think about the same thing from different angles to find a solution.
STEM is about more than giving academic information.
Think about this: would our lives be the same if thousands of scientists, engineers, and researchers around the world weren’t creative? No. We’d be at a very primary stage of humanity if creativity wasn’t part of the process.
Inventions, innovations, and discoveries — all these things require looking at a problem from different perspectives. And this is what STEM toys teach your children. They present them with multiple options, with each bringing out a different outcome. And it completely depends on the child as to which outcome they’d prefer, allowing them to sharpen their creativity.
Motor Co-ordination Skills
STEM toys not only improve your child’s brainpower but also improve their hand-eye coordination and motor skills. These toys expose the child to many motor activities, making them more confident in using their hands and fingers.
How Do You Know if a STEM Toy is EMF Free?
The best way to know if a STEM toy you’re looking to buy is EMF free is to check whether it has wireless connectivity. Any product that connects to the internet or an external product via Bluetooth emits EMF. So, you have to make sure not to purchase anything that has wireless connectivity.
Secondly, you can directly contact the seller of the product and ask questions about how their products are designed and how they work. This should give you plenty of information to make a better decision.
Technology is running wild. What I mean by this is that there’s little to no moderation when it comes to things like upgrades in wireless networks or the launch of new gadgets.
From thousands of scientific studies, we know that the tech we have carries a huge physical and mental risk for its consumers.
Now, I don’t have any problem with new technology. And I don’t suggest that people entirely cut tech from their lives. My goal is just to make you more aware of the risks and help you be more cautious while using these tech gadgets or giving these gadgets to your children.
This brings me to another frequently asked question. If gadgets like cell phones are bad for young children, at what age should we give them? I’ve answered this question in a separate post, which goes in-depth about the pros and cons of giving cell phones to your children. So do give it a read.