Has technology stolen childhood? In the twenty-first century, children live a digital reality their parents never dreamed of. It’s hard to imagine small hands gripping gadgets too big for their tiny fingers or that Internet-enabled technology such as computers, smartphones, or tablets would hold a child’s attention span, but they do. Childhood is a time for kids to frolic about outdoors, playing games like Hopscotch, Four-square, Double Dutch, Kick-the-Can, Tag, and making childhood friends, not staring at computer screens for countless hours. Modern children are missing fun, childhood experiences, years they can never recover. The growing concern about digital technology’s impact on children’s mental, physical, and social behavior has surpassed earlier generation’s fear, of too much television. We’re just starting to comprehend advancing technology’s effect on escalating child and teenage behavioral disorders.
The developmental debate is extremely complex because of technology’s value to society. And there’s no doubt digital technology will advance, infiltrating our children’s lives even more. We worry with the advancement of technology children are losing their childhood? With the perpetuity of technology, the appropriate question to ask is how much exposure should children have to technology and how to limit their access?
An ongoing developmental debate centers on children’s cognitive and behavioral growth. Cognitive development is defined as “the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem-solving, and decision-making from childhood through adolescence to adulthood.” Early childhood experiences play a critical role in a child’s ability to reason and communicate. There are both pros and cons of technology. Research in the last two decades has shown that technology used wisely provides many cognitive advantages.
- Technology can be a great tool for learning and aids cognitive development through enhanced learning.
- Prepares children for the real world.
- And if used appropriately can be a great tool for entertainment, and socializing.
Behavioral development is concerned with social-emotional skills—how children interact physically, mentally, and emotionally with other people. Previous beliefs were that technology reduces a child’s cognitive and motor abilities (problem-solving, creativity, and concentration), and decreases interpersonal skills. Given the alarming access to violence and sex on TV and video games, such exposure may lead to aggressive behavior, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and possibly suicidal tendencies.
And if that’s not alarming enough, childhood obesity is ever increasing from countless hours of inactivity. Baby boomers and older generations who grew up playing outside with other kids, had much more exercise than children today. During children’s formative years, they should be physically active in sunny open spaces which build bone density and muscle mass. Sedentary hours in front of screens cause:
- Fewer caloric expenditure, and mindless snacking induced by technology
- Less exposure to sunlight which decreases levels of Vitamin D needed to protect against infections, build strong bones, and healthy skin, and produce melatonin to regulate the sleep cycle
- Exposure to blue light emissions from digital technology changes children’s sleep patterns and possibly posed long-term eye problems.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 10.4 percent of preschool children and 19.6 percent of children ages six through eleven are obese. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates children spend an average of seven hours a day watching television, browsing the Internet (computers, phones) and playing video games. With the steady rise of obesity and resulting illnesses, it’s time parents act to prevent unhealthy habits that will follow children into adulthood. The American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends parents become proactive in their child’s playtime using the following steps.
- Limit a child’s screen time to a maximum of one to two hours a day (TV, computer or tablet)
- Encourage playtime and work up a sweat together in activities both parent and child enjoy
- Design a solid plan with allocated time, and no distractions from digital gadgets whereby the parent physically engage with the child in a sport or activity the child chooses.
As noted above, with the perpetuity of technology it’s a simple question of how to monitor children’s use of technology. Technology is not the demon, but when misused it can be harmful. It’s the parent’s responsibility to ensure their child develop healthy habits that will lead to a happy and fruitful adulthood. Provide your child greater connections to humans and nature through touch, communication, and exercise in a natural, outdoor environment. Let children play as they are meant to play.
American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx
Blue Light Exposed. Retrieved from http://www.bluelightexposed.com/#bluelightexposed
How Kids Develop. What is child development and what skills do children develop at different ages. Retrieved from http://www.howkidsdevelop.com/developSkills.html
The Encyclopedia of Children’s Health. Cognitive Development. Retrieved from http://www.healthofchildren.com/C/Cognitive-Development.html
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey: National Youth Fitness Survey Plan, Operations, and Analysis, 2012. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_02/sr02_163.pdf
Tags: Digital Technology and Childhood, Cognitive and Behavioral Development, Childhood Obesity, Anxiety, Depression