It’s a common sight today, kids everywhere with electronics in hand, a screen in front of their face. With the large number of educational apps geared towards children today, they are marketed as a smart parenting choice. However, experts are now warning that we’re being misled.
We live in a modern age, there is no denying that fact. Modern advances in technology have impacted every area of our lives in one way or another – our televisions are bigger, ‘smart home’ technology is becoming increasingly common and today’s smartphones are essentially mini-computers capable of more than our ancestors ever would have believed to be possible. This technology impacts our education system and the way we carry out modern medicine. The benefits have been endless.
Another important area of our lives directly impacted by these advances has been that of parenting. Computer programs and apps are designed to help teach children how to read, count and identify patterns. In this way, it can be used as an important tool in their growth and development. However, there is some truth to the statement ‘too much of a good thing’.
Today’s children are spending more and more time staring at a screen, and it’s seriously impacting their cognitive development. Sure, it sounds like common sense that a child who only watches ‘fun’ television shows and plays video games isn’t getting the educational component in their lives, but experts are now warning that prolonged use of ‘educational’ technology can also have a detrimental effect.
From newborn to the age of three is considered to be the most critical period in a child’s development, a time where we should be extra alert and aware of what they are being exposed to. It is during this time that they start to develop motor function, begin the process of verbalizing their thoughts and establish an understanding of how they fit into the world.
Tablets, however, rob children of many of the stimuli required to carry out this level of development. For example, a child may use an app that represents a puzzle or building activity, which one could argue is great for reasoning and problem-solving skills. However, failing to actually pick up and handle the blocks they are building with denies the child the necessary experience to develop their motor skills, learning how to effectively use their hands, spatial recognition and more. This is further hindered by the fact they are sitting still staring at a screen as opposed to being on the move, focusing on learning to crawl and eventually walk in order to explore the world around them.
Many parents use apps that read books to children or tell them stories, a modern-day replacement for story time with their parents in the past. Sure, these programs can help to develop their reading skills, but at what cost? They lose out on the necessary human connection that comes from sitting with their parent and interacting one on one, which can impact their relationship. A lack of human contact also hinders the development of their vocabulary – there is no one to talk to, so what is pushing them to talk? It is through talking with their family and, as they get older, friends that will help them to grow and evolve.
All of this, to this point, hasn’t even started to touch on the scientific studies that have been published showing that time spent staring at a computer screen can overstimulate children. This, in turn, leaves them struggling to focus and even going as far as developing an addiction to the stimuli, leading to emotional distress caused by ‘withdrawal’ when they aren’t able to access it.
This isn’t to say that electronics like tablets, televisions and smartphones are inherently bad for your children, so don’t go selling them off or throwing them away yet. It’s all about moderation. Parents are encouraged to limit screen time in order to find a healthy balance.