Gadgets while eating – Why and How to Stop it?
Roya is a 2-year-old child. As her parents were working, she stayed with her grandparents. Roya is a fussy eater who used to take a long time to get fed and feeding her was a challenging task for the family members. Her pediatrician told them that she was underweight. To help her eat and gain weight, they started showing her favourite cartoon, “Peppa Pig” while feeding and found distraction feeding useful. She became more cooperative during feeding, and family members continued it for 6 months. Soon, she became addicted to gadgets, which got the family worried, and they planned to reduce electronic distractions while eating. But she refused to eat without it, and they found it difficult to feed her again. Her pediatrician suggested they consult an Occupational Therapist and seek help from them.
Like Roya, is your child a fussy eater? Do you let your child watch their favourite cartoon shows while eating? Gadget addiction is common among children, and parents may find it difficult to control it due to our current lifestyle and busy work schedule. Exposure to gadgets during eating may lead to certain problems in your child’s development. In this blog, we will discuss the side effects of using gadgets and how to promote mindful eating.
Eating Food with electronic distractions and Side Effects of using Gadgets while eating?
Gadget distractions during feeding may lead to delays in physical, cognitive, speech and language and social-emotional development of a child. Here are some issues that may arise due to exposure to gadgets.
- Reduced child-family interaction
- Sensory food aversion
Eating with distractions doesn’t allow the child to understand and realize his/her hunger and thirst needs. They may not realize the feeling of fullness. More often, distracted eating leads to frequent snacking also. The child may find it difficult to remember what they ate and also may not have control over how much they have eaten. Unhealthy eating habits and overeating can lead to health concerns such as lower metabolism, indigestion and obesity.
Reduced child-family interaction
More often, parents and other family members may find only mealtime entertaining and relaxing. But if family members and children watch gadgets while eating, it may affect conversation and interaction. Their family attachment and bonding may also get affected.
Sensory food aversion
Using distraction eating may limit the sensory experiences of the child. Distraction eating occupies the basic senses of a child; hence they may not understand the taste, smell, and texture of the food. They may not oppose when new food is introduced or may not have any preferences/choices towards food. These kids may start avoiding new foods in later life.
Some kids are picky eaters, and it can be due to sensory hyperresponsivity. They tend to avoid food depending on its texture, smell, taste and colour.
Avoid Children watching TV while eating/ How to avoid distracted eating?
Here are some tips to avoid distracted feeding and promote mindful eating.
- Pay complete attention to the child and promote interaction and bonding among family members. Make sure that along with the child, family members also avoid watching gadgets such as TV, phone, laptop or tablet. Kids learn a lot of things by observing you, so be a role model to them.
- If you find difficulty feeding with no screen time, start by slowly reducing the screen time with at least 5-10 min of feeding time without gadgets. Gradually make it as feeding with zero screen time.
- Let the child understand their hunger needs. Don’t force the child to eat if the child feels full. Avoid snacking in between and near mealtime.
- Tell the child what they are eating and make them aware of it.
- Encourage feeding by self. Teach the child to finger-feed snacks such as biscuits, and chips by themselves. Simple breakfast items such as dosa, chapati, idly, poori etc. can be cut into small pieces and make the child take pieces of them and eat by himself/herself. Children can be fed rice by making rice balls and providing them on the plate. Let them pick it up by themselves. Help your child enjoy their food by adding shapes and colours and making it attractive and interesting.
Health Benefits of Mindful Eating
Health benefits of mindful eating are the following:-
- It helps understand the sense of hunger and fullness.
- It helps the child to try a variety of food choices.
- It improves awareness of taste, colour, texture, and smell of food.
- Encourages interaction with family members.
Anakha Pisharody, MOT Paediatrics,
One of the main reasons why kids should avoid watching gadgets while eating is because the child can tend to overeat and still not know how?
Yes, children may tend to overeat while on the phone. They may not understand what they are eating or the quantity of food consumed. They may not understand the sense of hunger and fullness; hence it may lead to overeating.
How come my child should not be on the phone when eating?
In kids, using gadgets while feeding may lead to delays in physical, cognitive and social-emotional development. It may lead to side effects such as overeating/obesity, aversion to certain foods and reduced parent-child interaction.
What are the benefits of mindful eating in kids?
Mindful eating promotes interaction between family and child. It helps kids to try a variety of food with different tastes, colours, smells and textures.