Technology has become an integral part of our society. We are bombarded by phones, computers, tablets and even smart refrigerators every day. Most of the time technology is helpful. It helps us stay connected to loved ones and share our everyday lives. However, the effects of technology on our children can be harmful in more than one way.
The physical effect of technology on our children is the most obvious. Children are spending more time on devices than playing outside or doing other physical activities. This is leading to increased rates of obesity and other related diseases. This sedentary behavior is leading to an increase in snacking, long periods of inactivity and sleep disruption. Children who are just learning their gross motor skills (crawling, walking, and running) can also be affected by technology. The children who are glued to the screen are not exploring their environment and developing these skills. Too much screen time can result in delays in gross motor development.
The brain is still in development during childhood. This is a time where too much technology can “wire” brains differently. Attention span is one area of the brain that can be affected from an abundance of screen time. The ability of a child to learn to focus effectively is a fundamental aspect of growth and helps in the development of the child as a successful and happy individual. Technology requires a shorter attention span than activities such as reading or pretend play. In reading, there are minimal distractions and requires intense focus. Technology produces consistent distractions and requires fragmented attention where imagination isn’t required. The
brain becomes wired to processing information in this way. Reading requires the brain to develop reflection and critical thinking in a very different way than technology.
Emotionally children are affected by technology. Have you ever taken your child’s tablet away and a temper tantrum ensues? Many research studies have found the effects of technology are impacting our children’s emotions in a negative way. The risk of depression, suicide and anxiety increase with substantial technology use. Children are not able to identify and regulate emotions when exposed to increased amounts of technology. This dysregulation of emotions can lead to tantrums and behavior that is increasingly worrisome.
Technology is not all bad. There are positives to the use of technology. Technology is here to stay and will only become a more integral part of our everyday lives. The use of technology allows children to process information rapidly and improve visual-spatial reaction times. New games and apps are connecting children and giving them the opportunity to socialize. The exposure to technology may spark an interest in learning about computers and coding. These Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic, or STEM, skills will be essential in the workforce. Technology can enhance learning. Instead of learning about rainforests in a textbook, children can see it, experience it and interact with it.
In all things in life, balance is the key. Technology can be a positive influence on our children’s lives. Limiting screen time and utilizing educational and interactive apps are one way to use technology in a positive way. Discussing the use of technology with our children and laying out a routine for use (i.e. 15 minutes a day) can help with behavior issues. Technology isn’t going anywhere, so find the right balance that works for your family.