There is much controversy regarding technology and its negative effects on children. Remember, television is relatively new in the grand scheme of time—our great grandparents’ generation grew up without it—and for the most part computer and video games were born in the 80s. Since the inception of modern technology, there is valid concern and skepticism about the potential harm that could ensue from the entertainment, which permeates almost every household around the world. We live in the age of sedentary lifestyles. Kids used to spend most of their time outside playing with friends, and fun used to be defined as finding ways to stay out of the house and not become bored on the couch! My, how things have changed.
Today if you were to ask a handful of elementary children what they like to do for fun or how they spend their time after school, the majority of the responses would consist of, “watching TV” or, “playing my favorite video game.” That’s just the way recent generations have grown up and what our culture consists of now. While there isn’t anything wrong with playing electronics, video games and watching television, how much is too much? When does it all become detrimental, in any way? How do we prevent the problems of addiction— which are quickly becoming very common and even have specific diagnoses—? There has even been talk of adding these types of disorders to the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders! Here is an important question we should all ask ourselves and research: What is the influence of technology on a developing child?
Merely a couple decades ago, kids had to create their own entertainment and really use their imagination in play. Simply having fun really exercised the mind and allowed the flourishing of creativity. Kids of the past were almost always on the move, exploring nature and aspects of the world now overshadowed by electronics. This allowed the brain to be stimulated and, as a natural result, intelligence and education to develop and reach optimal levels. Of course one who goes out and exposes his/her senses to all sorts of different learning opportunities and information, will be more educated on the world and overall more developed than an individual who stays inside and doesn’t do much more than experience what the TV and computer have to offer.
A 2010 Kaiser Foundation study revealed the following that:
- Elementary aged kids spend about 7.5 hours each day on entertainment technology.
- 75% of children have TVs in their bedrooms
- 50% of all North American homes have the television on all day!
Those are rather astounding facts. No longer do families actually talk and spend quality time together. The TV is the main focus and source of communication. Constantly relying on electronic and sedentary activities dramatically limits one’s developing imagination and ability to be creative. More importantly, these types of entertainment can impede one from achieving proper sensory and motor development. Rapidly advancing technology has caused an increase in physical, psychological, and behavioral disorders. Childhood obesity, as a result of staying inside and being on the couch too much, is a national epidemic in the United States. ADHD, autism, developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are all associated with technology overuse—at an alarming degree. The following factors are critical in achieving proper development and a healthy child: movement, human connection, touch, and nature. Such factors ensure normal posture, bilateral coordination, appropriate arousal states, and a good educational foundation for entering school. It’s frightening that by engaging in too much television or electronic games, all 4 critical components go unaddressed. What does this say about how technology affects a child? It is clear that one must monitor TV, cellular, and internet usage of children so that important developmental milestones are not missed— resulting in suboptimal intellect.
Below are some tips to keep a relationship with technology under control!
- Set a rule that for every hour inside spent on sedentary activities, your child must spend 3 hours outside.
This just keeps a healthy ratio of the types of stimulation, with more importance placed on getting the healthy interactions and sensory discovery the real world provides.
- For young kids make TV time an educational experience.
Baby Einstein videos are well-known and scientifically created to help stimulate the early child mind. Disney Junior is ideal for kids around the kindergarten age. This portion of Disney Channel focuses on educational topics while still being fun and entertaining!
- Despite living in a world consumed with electronics, make sure you’re engaging with your child and they are getting the kind of interpersonal contact necessary for prosperity and being a well-adjusted human.
Some resources to take advantage of, if you have a child leaning toward an addiction to any kind of technology, include the following sites: Technology Addiction and children
The latter website offers articles and interviews on disorders, as well as ways to tell if your child is in fact addicted to technology or possesses a milder problem. In addition, you can find strategies and tips to combat the struggles the popular ways of entertainment today can pose. If you feel your child is addicted, consider contacting a trusted professional for family therapy services.
Like many things, technology is good in moderation and without overindulgence. It can be dangerous, as research has shown, but with the knowledge and preparedness one can have, there is no reason why TV, internet, games, or cellphones, can’t be enjoyed without negative effects.
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AUTHOR: Jada Jackson, MS, LMHC – Communicator, Coach & Licensed Mental Health Counselor provides family counseling services in Fort Worth. Specializing in couples, teens, young adults and women empowerment issues, you can reach Jada at: (469) 757-5215
Author: Emily Simpson (Intern)