Technology and Our Kids

Technology is changing the way children learn to communicate and use communication to learn. Many parents are using devices to quiet there children in the car, at the dinner table, or where ever social activities may occur. The risk here is that the child is not witnessing and thinking about the social interactions playing out before him. Children learn social skills through modeling their parents social interactions. Furthermore, listening to others communicate and talking to others is how children learn to talk to themselves and be alone. The benefits of solitude for children come from replaying and acting out conversations they had or witnessed during the day, and this is how they ultimately make sense of their world. The bottom line is, the more we expose our children to technological devices, the worse their social skills and behavior will be. A Millennium Cohort Study that followed 19,000 children found that, “those who watched more than three hours of television, videos or DVDs a day had a higher chance of conduct problems, emotional symptoms and relationship problems by the time they were 7 than children who did not.” If you are going to give your child screen privileges, at least set aside a time for just that, and don’t use technology to pacify or preoccupy your children during social events.

Age comes into play when discussing the harmful effects of technology. For children younger than two-years-old, frequent exposure to technology can be dangerously detrimental as it limits the opportunities for interaction with the physical world. Children two-years-old and younger are in the sensorimotor stage. During this stage it is crucial that they manipulate objects in the world with their bodies so that they can learn cause-effect relationships and object permanence. Object permanence is the understanding that when an object disappears from sight, it still exists. This reasoning requires the ability to hold visual representations of objects in the mind, a precursor to understanding visual subjects such as math later in life. To develop these skills, children need several opportunities every day to mold, create, and build using materials that do not have a predetermined structure or purpose. What a technological device provides are programs with a predetermined purpose that can be manipulated in limited ways with consequences that often don’t fit the rules of the physical world. If the child is not being given a drawing app or the like, they are likely given programs that are in essence a lot like workbooks with structured activities. Researchers have found that such activities hinder the cognitive development of children this age. While researchers advise parents to limit their baby’s screen time to 2 hours or less each day, I would say it’s better to wait to introduce technology to your children until after they have at least turned 3-years-old and are demonstrating healthy cognitive development. Even then, technology use should be limited enormously to provide toddlers with time to engage in imaginative play.