Fri, Aug 21, 2015 - Page 4 News List

3C act a symbolic gesture: ministry

SMART DEVICES:Despite new rules banning or limiting children’s usage of smartphones and computers, no fine has ever been issued, a health and welfare official said

By Wu Liang-yi, Lin Hui-chin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Amendments to the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act (兒童及少年福利與權益保障法) threatening fines of between NT$10,000 to NT$15,000 (US$306 to US$459) for offenders hold more symbolic rather than actual value, Ministry of Health and Welfare officials said.

The amendment, which took effect in February, states that children under the age of two are prohibited from using any sort of 3C — computer, communications and consumer electronics — products, while those aged two to 18 cannot use them for more than 30 minutes.

However, despite multiple tip-offs on families or establishments violating the law, no fines have been issued due to the difficulty of substantiating accusations and a lack of standardization of fines, Department of Protective Services Director-General Chang Hsiu-yuan (張秀鴛) said.

Chang said that most tips-offs come from grandparents who were unable to stop their grandchildren from playing games on cellphones, tablets or computers.

Despite social workers talking with parents, most said they have tried to stop their children, Chang said.

Social workers said it was difficult to determine if parents had done their duty and they had no proof to press charges, she said.

The same problem exists in childcare facilities, despite popular belief that it would be easier to monitor children at these facilities, Chang said.

A mother of two children, surnamed Chen (陳), said that while the government meant well with the amendments, actual implementation was difficult.

Chen said she is worried that her children’s eyesight might suffer from spending too much time using electronic devices and that daycare center workers might not notice them. She added that public social welfare units should be more active on the matter.

Their concerns are supported by some doctors, who warn that too much exposure to electronic devices for young children could affect their health.

Chen Ying-shan (陳瑩山), director of the ophthalmology department of Cathay General Hospital’s Hsinchu County branch, said that electronic products emit blue light, and this could cause pseudomyopia as children’s ciliary muscles are quick to focus but are not easily relaxed.

The crystalline lenses of children’s eyes are clearer and are less effective at blocking blue light, which increase the risk of children developing cataracts, Chen said.

A poll distributed to 6,000 parents with children under the age of 14 last year showed that 65 percent of respondents allowed their children to use electronic devices — smartphones, tablet computers and TV — before the age of three.

While 70 percent of respondents were cognizant of how these gadgets could harm the vision of their children, 80 percent of these parents were unaware of how to foster correct usage habits.

Clinical psychologist Che Hsien-hui (車先蕙) said children overly reliant on electronic devices could condition their brains to rely on visual stimuli, which could decrease word memory and cognitive thought, as well as result in reduced attention span.

Chu suggested limiting usage of electronic devices and alternating them with music or play dough, which not only excites other sensory organs, but also helps foster relationships between parents and children.

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