It is no secret that within the past few years, technology has changed and grown massively. Adults and children are being introduced to new forms of technology all the time. Whether it is the newest iPhone, version of Alexa, or other “smart” device, people quickly adapt to it. The impact of technology can have a positive or negative effect, especially on developing children.
Today most of a child’s play is related to technology in some way. According to the Huffington Post article, “The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child,” a 2010 Kaiser Foundation study found that elementary-aged children, on average, spend 7.5 hours per day on entertainment technology. The article also explained how using technology this much can limit a child’s creativity and imagination, can cause them to become more sedentary, and possibly lead to problems with obesity. Too much sensory stimulation through screens can then cause greater problems, including delays in child developmental milestones, self-regulation, and attention skills. Research has shown other effects on a child’s behavioral and social skills, including the ones below.
- Critical Thinking – Too much technology can lead to a decrease in daily reading.
- Privacy and Safety – Social media and the Internet are gateways to information. However, children can be exposed to harmful things at too young an age.
- Reduced Sleep Quality – Studies have proven children sleep less when at least one device is present in their bedroom.
- Relationships with Family and Friends – Constant checking of phones, iPads, and computers for notifications or in looking to escape boredom can cause negative effects on children and adults’ relationships and interactions.
New guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) have been set to help prevent some of these effects. WHO now states that infants under one year old should not be exposed to technology and children between the ages of two and four should have no more than one hour each day. As for older children, limits should be balanced, based on technology usage time and how the technology is being used. For instance, whether is it being used for school or social media, videogames, etc. Children need to spend time outdoors, with their families and friends, being creative.
It can be hard to place limitations on technology, since it is constantly used and all around us. However, it is possible, and can be done with these easy ideas, suitable for all ages.
- Set aside time each day for reading, and have no electronics present. Use a timer to help children know when it is time to put away technology and grab a book. Be consistent in stating what time daily reading is done. You can also take this trick a step further to help with a child’s critical thinking by expanding the conversation—asking the child what they read and what connections they could make to the novel. Daily reading is important for children, young and old, and will help them be more successful in school.
- Let children be imaginative with their play. Get out the arts and crafts supplies, board games, dress-up clothes, dollhouses, pots and pans, etc., and let the child’s imagination go wild. Twenty years later, I still remember my sister and me turning our living room into shows for our families and a restaurant where we served food from our little kitchen. When children are engaged in imaginary play, they are learning social and emotional skills, as well as problem-solving and thinking skills.
- Be informed and involved with what your child is viewing on the Internet, social media, and on T.V. Encourage games and shows that are educational and set parental controls on all devices that your child uses or could use.
- Have open discussions and relationships with your child about technology usage. The discussions will change, depending on the child’s age and what is appropriate and not appropriate.
- As with imaginary play and daily reading, create a daily “unplugged time” for the whole family. Bring back family dinners, family walks, etc. When children see parents being a strong role model for reasonable technology usage, it will be easier for them to follow.
All forms of technology can be beneficial and harmful at times. Too much information can make us confused, anxious, and lead to health problems. Find a balance within your family, and take some time to enjoy life away from the screens. For more information and resources, visit websites, such as thetot.com, screen.guide.com, and aap.org.