What impact does technology have on the development of children?
We live in a world that is dominated by technology and looks to become ever increasingly enmeshed with computers. Whilst technology has the power for tremendous good, it also has a negative effect on our children.
It’s important to realize that our children are exposed to technology from the moment they arrive in electric lit delivery rooms. Babies are given toys with flashing lights and see adults ignore them in favour of their phones. Children are routinely exposed to tablets, smartphones, educational games, movies and electronic toys.
Technology isn’t going away and there’s nothing we can do about that, however as parents, we do have to take responsibility for what our children are exposed to and how it affects their development.
How technology harms your child
The most obvious concern that parents have, is the shrinking attention span of our children. This has effected the generation so profoundly that even with minimal exposure, children are more impatient and less able to concentrate. Jim Taylor, Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today about how our children’s malleable brains learn to think the way we skim the internet by quickly scanning and processing multiple sources of information. “ …previous generations may have spent much more time reading, imagining - activities that require focus and attention, brains in children exposed to high volumes of technology may adapt to frequent visual stimulation, rapid change and little need for imagination.” This has a direct effect on a classroom with children struggling to concentrate on the boring lessons in comparison to quick paced videos.
Secondly, technology destroys a child’s ability to self soothe, with parents stuffing an ipad into a crying toddler’s arms. American Academy of Pediatrics found that the distraction of mobile phones is directly linked towards a decreased ability for a child to calm themselves down.
Then there’s the numerous studies that show that on-screen violence makes children more aggressive and rude and perhaps most importantly, the physical toll of all the sitting that technology encourages cannot be ignored.
Technology impacts the way our children interact with each other. With our children connecting online instead of in real life, it’s not just physically pulling them away from each other but also stunting the growth of their social skills. This is the case even when it’s just the adults using the screens. Dr. Gary Small, head of UCLA’s memory and aging research center says that technology hinders teenagers’ ability to communicate and even fosters a sense of detachment from the feelings of others.
Florida tech quotes Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard clinical psychologist, who warns that “screen time replaces time previously devoted to play, peer interaction and exploration, which are thought to foster empathy, curiosity, intelligence, and listening skills.”
But it’s not all bad.
How technology benefits our children
Technology helps develop motor skills and visual awareness skills in children.
Psych central says that multitasking is a very useful skill that technology teaches our children. When our children are using technology and the internet, they use their decision-making and problem-solving brain functions more frequently, and are more likely to handle rapid cyber searches well.
Technology can also help those who are weaker academically, to engage and catch up. Technology in the classroom can boost academic achievement and improve interest.
What can parents do to make the best of the situation?
Technology isn’t going away and the world will change whether we like it or not. Jobs will change, required skill sets will change and our technologically minded children will find a world suited to their abilities. However, health officials are pretty clear that children under the age of two shouldn’t have screen time and that we, as parents, need to devote our full attention to our kids. Ignoring them in favour of a smartphone does the worst damage of all.
Yes, we should and must limit screen time. But more importantly, we must model good behaviours and show our children how to use technology and not become addicted to netflix and youtube in favour of real world connections and our responsibilities. Set limits and boundaries, model them, let kids experience the warmth of human interaction, put phones away for meals and as for the wider ranging impact… well, the art of stone masonry died and civilization did just fine. Teach your kids moderation and they’ll be fine - but it takes your willpower to say no.
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