Health Matters Tackles Technology and Health

little girl on her bed with earbuds looking at her tablet

It seems like screens are everywhere, whether in the form of phones, iPads or video games. The latest episode of Health Matters with Doylestown Health explores the effects of technology on health, and our expert guest suggests ways parents can help deal with related issues.

Our guest for the final episode of the fifth season is Pamela Harrington, MD, a pediatrician and member of the Doylestown Hospital Medical Staff. Dr. Harrington has been in private practice with CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) Primary Care in Central Bucks for about 15 years.

Screen time

"Screen time does have a big effect on health for children of all ages," says Dr. Harrington.

Particularly in younger kids, decreased social interaction and less hands-on exploration can lead to developmental consequences, she notes.

Another issue related to lots of screen time is the decrease in physical activity. This can lead to obesity and cardiovascular problems. It can also affect the quality and quantity of sleep children get.

The episode also looks at how screen time can affect sleep and can be tied to depression, particularly with certain kinds of social media.

How much is too much?

So, how much screen time is too much? Dr. Harrington says it's different for different age groups and shares guidelines.

She also discusses how children learn and whether they learn from digital ‘teachers.'

Dr. Harrington points out that children need to have interaction with caregivers for their overall development.

Can the phone become an addiction? Some kids do develop a dependency and attachment to their phones. The relationship shares similarities with addiction. Some experience withdrawal symptoms when they're separated from their phones, including anger, tension and even depression. There's also something known as an Internet gaming disorder.

Dr. Harrington offers tips for parents trying to limit screen time, saying that setting guidelines are good, and trying to teach kids early on can help. She also talks about different ways to monitor screen time and use parental controls.

Music in their ears

When it comes to music, about 17 percent of teens show signs of noise-induced hearing loss. Factors that affect potential hearing loss include volume and length of time and how close to the ear. Dr. Harrington suggests over-the-ear headphones are better than ear buds. She also shares about the 60-60 rule: not listening to music at higher than 60 percent of volume for more than 60 minutes at a time.

Benefits and risks

Technology can come with benefits, as our guest discusses apps and other technology that may have positives for health, including Fitbits and exercise apps. There may be some benefits to technology for mental health, such as decreased risk for depression with positive social interaction with peers.

The episode concludes with a look at other positives and negatives of technology and the influx of information in general. Technology can help physicians and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) spread important information quickly. But it's important to rely on a trusted source as there is a great deal of misinformation out there, notes Dr. Harrington.

In the end, technology is not going away, so these are important issues to consider. Dr. Harrington emphasizes that moderation is the key and it's important for parents to try to keep technology issues under control to keep kids healthy.


About Pediatric Services

Doylestown Health is an independent, not-for-profit, clinically integrated network of care committed to providing family-centered children’s services for the youngest members of our community. Our Della Penna Pediatrics along with our VIA Maternity Center offer maternity care, labor and delivery, neonatology, and perinatology services. We also have broad capabilities in pediatric diagnostic testing, and deliver comprehensive pediatric care throughout our outpatient practices, our Emergency Department at Doylestown Hospital, and Urgent Care on Swamp Road.  

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