What impact has technology had on children of this generation?
These days, there’s no simplistic childish play consisting of little bodies tumbling around the yard with jump ropes, footballs, sprinklers–all of it. Children now sit silent on the couch all squished together into the family room, staring at the huge flashing box on the wall and not giving an ounce of attention to each other.
The YouTube video “A magazine is an iPad that does not work” reveals a one-year-old becoming increasingly frustrated as she attempts to use a magazine as if it had a touch screen. After several tries, she becomes exasperated and confounded, seemingly unable to wrap her little brain around the idea that not everything is magical like the iPad.
According to CNet, it’s now become common for a fourth grader to have a cell phone and a toddler to carry around an enormous iPad that’s bigger than they are. “Cell phone owners are getting younger and younger. According to a new study, 83 percent of middle schoolers, 39 percent of fifth-graders, and 20 percent of third-graders have a mobile device.”
No longer are houses cluttered with mismatched board games that lack a game piece or two. A peek into a modern house reveals those shelves barren and dusty, the board games replaced by one or two Apple products.
According to Chris Rowan in the Huffington Post, “A 2010 Kaiser Foundation study showed that elementary aged children use on average 7.5 hours per day of entertainment technology, 75 percent of these children have TV’s in their bedrooms, and 50 percent of North American homes have the TV on all day.”
But it’s not necessarily the TV itself that’s the harm–it’s all the side effects. It’s the lack of other activities that the TV sucks out of their day–the absence of social interaction, the lack of physical activity, and the unused creativity that is found so abundant in young minds.
A child’s mind is like a sponge–it absorbs everything. Never again in a person’s life will someone have the same capabilities as they had in childhood. Because of their delicate minds, parents must be watchful of the amount of technology present in their kids’ environment, for it’s shocking just how much of a negative impact overstimulation from electronics can have on a child’s mind.
Rowan describes that technology under stimulates a child in the aspect of physical exercise, yet over stimulates their developing brain in the sensory areas, causing those areas of the brain to become overwhelmed. “This sensory imbalance creates huge problems in overall neurological development, as the brain’s anatomy, chemistry and pathways become permanently altered and impaired,” she wrote.
However, there is the opposing argument supporting the mix of children and technology. Supporters believe that in this day and age technology surrounds most daily tasks, and that children need to learn how these various technologies work in order to properly prepare for the future.
“Sixty percent of jobs in the market are technology related, and children need the tech advantage to be successful in such an environment.” wrote Kristina Hatch in the DigitalCommons
So what is the best option for children? Parents could keep their kids nearly barren of all technology in hopes of shielding them from developmental problems, but then must face the challenge of stunting their future successes in the process. However, parents could also open the gates wide and allow a thick flow of technology in their home, successfully preparing their children for the future–yet possibly hindering their developmental processes.
What’s the best option?
Everything is key with moderation–parents need only stem the flow of technology, but don’t need to stop the influx of electronics altogether. It is vital for young people to learn how to use an iPad, how to type effectively on a computer, how to search the web.
“Children today can use technology as a supplement with traditional education, not as a replacement,” wrote Hatch.
It’s this time in people’s lives where the brain is the most delicate, yet also the strongest it will ever be. Parents should consider sending their children outside with some friends when they’re bored instead of sitting them in front of a TV for a few hours. Not only does this foster learning, but also tires the kids out so much they’ll run inside and sleep for hours.