Epidemic deepening negative consequence of internet overuse

Ljubljana – Internet use and screen time among children and youth have been increasing in recent years, which can have negative consequences on their development and cause addictions, heard an online conference hosted by the Logout centre on Tuesday. The epidemic has made the situation even worse, experts agree.

According to Janez Arh from Logout, the centre offering help in cases of excessive use of the internet, a record number of people applied for preventive and aid programmes during the epidemic, which shows the problem has deepened.

A similar picture was painted by social pedagogue Rok Gumzej, who works directly with persons who have problems with excessive use of social networks.

Asked how long-term distance schooling will affect pupils and students, Gumzej said there would definitely be some consequences. “A year of some new habits has to leave a mark somewhere,” he said.

Mateja Vintar Spreitzer, the head of a task force at the Medical Chamber setting the guidelines for safe screen time, said that data from the US showed school children were exposed to various screens for four hours and a half a day on average, and pre-school children for two hours and 20 minutes, “which are huge numbers”.

In Slovenia, only one survey has been made for pre-school children, in 2016, showing three-year-olds are exposed to screens for two hours a day and four-year-olds for up to three hours. “More exposed are children of young parents, parents with lower education and those who use screens a lot themselves.”

She said last year research had been conducted into the effects of excessive exposure to screens on pre-school children, showing changes in the brain, in the parts responsible for speech, vocabulary and communication, which were underdeveloped.

Vintar Spreitzer recommends no screen time for children under two years old, and up to one hour of screens for children aged 2-5 under parents’ supervision.

Pupils in the first three grades of primary school should not spend more than an hour a day in front of screens on average, while those in grades 4-6 no more than an hour and a half, and those in the final three years, teenagers and adults up to two hours a day in their free time.