iPods. Laptops. Tablets. Smart phones. In today’s world, our children are as “connected” as the grownups – if not more so. Where once these devices were used for business purposes, everyone now seems to own at least one.
In addition to technology putting new gadgets in the hands of our children, it has also opened up new opportunities for socialization. Gone are the days of passing handwritten notes back and forth in the halls between classes, or gossiping on the phone with your best friend. But when does technology become detrimental to our children’s development? How much is too much?
The debate on how much time children and teens should spent in front of the television is not a new one, but with the constant stream of new and improved tech devices (and the internet), the debate has taken on a new dimension. When used responsibly, technology can enhance learning by enabling children to access information and learn skills that will benefit them personally, academically, and professionally.
However, when the use of technology is abused children can lose the basic skills of communication, develop mental illnesses, become depressed or anxious, or manifest conditions such as ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorders, narcissism and bipolar tendencies. Without simple human contact, dialogue and eye contact for extended periods of time, children could potentially continue down a path that is detrimental to their overall well-being.
The American Psychological Association recommends that parents and caregivers take the following measures to reduce the negative impact that too much technology can cause:
1. Keep televisions, computers, and other electronic media out of the bedroom. This will allow parents to monitor how much their child is using technology and make sure what they are viewing is age appropriate.
2. Talk with your children about their television viewing, video game playing and what they are discussing on social media. Watch the shows your children enjoy and play video games with them. Not only does this provide insight into your child’s world, it gives you quality time interacting with your child.
3. Evaluate the technology you allow your children to use to ensure that it will help them developmentally. Great apps that will stimulate development include word games and language teaching apps. Just be sure to research them first before allowing your child to download them onto their device.
4. Limit the amount of screen time your child is allowed and monitor their usage. In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a cap at two hours. However, with today’s advanced technology, that time frame may no longer be practical – especially since so many schools are encouraging the use of computers to expand students’ learning database.
5. Additionally, set up time where you and your children completely unplug for a period of time. Experts recommend the “one hour per day, one day per week, one week per year” plan of unplugging so that you and your family can reconnect with other activities.
6. Finally, talk to other parents about their experiences with the use of technology, different devices, and social media. Not only will this provide good moral support, but it can also help make you aware of other pros and cons concerning technology and kids.
Each child has different learning styles which will determine the best way you should incorporate available technology. For example, many children with learning disabilities respond well to software that is designed to enhance their learning capabilities and keep them organized. On the other hand, they shouldn’t fall asleep with the TV on which can cause another subset of sleeping issues.
Talk to a qualified psychologist who can help find a balance that will blend with your family’s dynamics, as well identify any underlying issues that may be of concern.