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Technology Should Not Hamper The Child’s Normal Social Interaction And Environmental Learning

Media diets should be rich in educational content and should be based on the science of learning approaches in creating content that triggers the intuitive senses in kids at that tender age.

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Instead of playing with toys or being part of an outdoor activity, over-exposing them to screens so early in life could hinder their holistic development, damage their eyesight and cause childhood obesity which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Pixabay

If you are one of those parents who hand over a smartphone or a tablet to your toddlers while feeding them or to keep them entertained, beware this habit can not only make them sedentary but also push them into severe digital addiction in their formative years.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), only 15-20 minutes of screen exposure is healthy and acceptable for babies under 18 months of age.

However, busy schedules and an over-protective approach towards the physical safety of toddlers have increasingly convinced parents, especially in the metros, to hook their children onto smart screens, say the experts.

Instead of playing with toys or being part of an outdoor activity, over-exposing them to screens so early in life could hinder their holistic development, damage their eyesight and cause childhood obesity which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

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For digital detox, experts say parents should create and maintain device-free zones at home, especially at dining tables and in bedrooms for kids as well as for themselves. Pixabay

“Toys generate more visual and tactile information to the toddler’s brain. Screen interactions are just too fast for a toddler of less than two years of age to comprehend any information and learn anything out of it,” Soumiya Mudgal, Psychiatrist, Max Healthcare, Gurugram, told IANS.

The increased screen time can also push toddlers to laziness and permanently damage their cognitive abilities such as solving problems, paying attention to other people and falling asleep on time.

Health experts suggest that the “ideal” age for children to be exposed to moderate screen involvement is 11 years. But, a recent survey by UK-based online trade-in outlet musicMagpie found that 25 per cent of children aged six and under already have their own mobile phones and nearly half of them spend up to 21 hours per week on their devices – playing games on screen and watching videos.

Since screen exposure is inescapable for toddlers, parents are being advised by experts to engage their children in “open-ended” content on screens. This would help them to be creative in interacting with the app, which could contribute as cognitive development than mere reward or distraction.

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The increased screen time can also push toddlers to laziness and permanently damage their cognitive abilities such as solving problems, paying attention to other people and falling asleep on time. Pixabay

However, screen exposure for a short period under supervision cannot be harmful.

“Under supervision, 15-20 minutes of letting toddlers interact with screens while eating, bathing or getting a haircut could be allowed as a reward for the child because there is no evidence of it causing addiction in that little duration,” Mudgal said.

Media diets should be rich in educational content and should be based on the science of learning approaches in creating content that triggers the intuitive senses in kids at that tender age.

“Technology should not hamper the child’s normal social interaction and environmental learning,” Mudgal noted.

Once children become habitual to interacting with smart displays, trying to cut down their screen engagement time later could result in problematic withdrawal symptoms like irritable behaviour, disobedience, repetitive demanding and tantrums in sleeping, eating or even staying awake.

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For digital detox, experts say parents should create and maintain device-free zones at home, especially at dining tables and in bedrooms for kids as well as for themselves.

“Children pick up from what they see. Parents have to set an example of practising healthy screen time habits themselves and they must cautiously beware of the impact that their own screen habits could have on their toddlers,” Mudgal said. (IANS)

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Children Paying the Price in Yemen’s War

Violence is just one of the many reasons the war in Yemen has crippled the country's ability to educate children

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Children, Yemen's War
Aid organizations have called the humanitarian crisis in Yemen the worst in the world, and a "war on children." Pictured in Sanaa, Yemen, April 20, 2019. VOA

When the blast went off in early April, shrapnel hit homes and schools all over the quiet residential neighborhood of the Yemeni capital.

Windows shattered and the 2,000 girls in a nearby school tried to evacuate at once, many racing down the stairs and some dying in the stampede.

Safia Al-Wesabi, a 10-year-old student of the Al-Ra’ai School, made it out safely, but she couldn’t find her older, teen-aged sister outside. “I was sobbing,” she said. “I thought she was trampled to death.”

​More than 15 children were killed and 100 other people injured that day, but violence is just one of the many reasons the war in Yemen has crippled the country’s ability to educate children, and often even keep them alive. As Yemen’s conflict goes into a fifth year, aid organizations are calling it a “war on children.”

Children, Yemen's War
Safia Al-Wesabi, a 10-year-old student of the Al Ra’ai School, survived a blast that killed 15 children and injured 100 children and adults in Sanaa, Yemen in early April, pictured on April 20, 2019. VOA

“We are at a tipping point,” said Henrietta Fore, the executive director of UNICEF in a recent speech. “If the war continues any longer, the country may move past the point of no return. … How long will we continue allowing Yemen to slide into oblivion?”

Missing school and health care

As the children fled flying glass and shrapnel at their school last month, Hamid Al Wesabi, Safia’s father, was in his home located on a hill nearby. His house shook and the windows broke. He ran to the school to find his daughters. “We didn’t know what was happening,” he said.

Later that day, both the girls and their father escaped the chaos and reunited at home.

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A few weeks later, the school was open again for final exams and Wesabi’s daughters went back. Many others chose not to return.

At least one in five schools is no longer in use in Yemen, mostly because they were destroyed by violence or are now being used as emergency shelters or military bases.

​Hospitals also have shut down at alarming rates and roughly half of Yemeni children under age 5 have been permanently injured by malnutrition. Every 10 minutes a child in Yemen dies from a preventable cause, according to a recent UNICEF report.

Teachers’ salaries are often not being paid, forcing many to look for other jobs. Sometimes children are simply too afraid to go to school, the report says.

Children, Yemen's War
Hamid Al Wesabi and Safia are pictured by their home after a blast nearby shook the house and broke the windows in Sanaa, Yemen, April 20, 2019. VOA

​As a result, Yemeni children are increasingly recruited to fight in militias, work at other adult jobs or married off at young ages. “If not in school, children would become an illiterate and unskilled parent and increasing the likelihood of passing on poverty to the next generation,” it reads.

Safia took her exams but her text books were lost in the blast, so she could not prepare.

Other children were not so lucky. Sitting next to Safia at a wooden desk, 8-year-old Bayan appeared absent-minded when asked about her older sister, who was killed in the crush of girls trying to escape. An adult asked if she missed her sister.

“Yes,” she managed to say quietly.

Humanitarian crisis deepens

The war in Yemen is between the Houthis, who currently hold the north, including the capital Sanaa, and forces loyal to the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was forced from the capital in 2015 and is recognized as the Yemeni president by the United Nations.

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These are hardly the only players in this war, which has left many world powers mired in proxy battles. Iran is known to support the Houthis, whose longest-held territories are near the border with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s archenemy.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have been launching airstrikes targeting the Houthis — often in locations populated by civilians — for four years now with support from Western powers like the United States and Britain. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, many of them civilians, including children.

Children, Yemen's War
Eight-year-old Bayan, right, lost her older sister when 2,000 girls tried to evacuate their school at the same time, in Sanaa, Yemen, pictured April 20, 2019. VOA

Already the Arab world’s poorest country, this battle has turned Yemen into what many call the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with the threat of widespread famine now looming as peace talks continue to be derailed. Last week, a cease-fire in a key port city broke down, exacerbating the threat as food and aid remained stalled outside the country by the war.

It is not clear as to who or what caused the blast that hit the school last month, with pro-Saudi news reporting an airstrike, and later deleting the report, according to Human Rights Watch.The organization says Houthi authorities were storing dangerous material in a civilian neighborhood.

Children, Yemen's War
After the blast, teachers said they felt obligated to return to school despite their fears, to encourage children to do the same, in Sanaa, Yemen, April 20, 2019. VOA

Besides violence, hunger, and disease, children in Yemen are also deeply threatened by the psychological trauma they are experiencing, according to Fathia al-Kuhlani, the principal of the Al Ra’ai School in Sanaa.

“After trauma, if students don’t go back to school, anxiety can lead to depression,” she said. “It was hard even for us to enter the school the day after the strike, but we needed to come to encourage the students to come back.” (VOA)