I apologize in advance for the irony in the title, as I am using social networking to bring attention to the negative impact of technology. It seems contradictory, but blogging and other social media tools are very effective in sharing information. So later in this article when you read that you should limit your computer time, please wait until the end of the article to do so:)
Calling the attention of policy makers, school administrators, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, parents, aunts and uncles… basically EVERYONE! Children are in need of your undivided attention. Children demand face to face interaction to promote psychological development and well being. With the rise of technology, rough and tumble outdoor play and imaginary games are being replaced by the unilateral LCD screen, otherwise known as television, computer, cell phone, ipod, ipad, etc. While research is emerging regarding the individual and societal effects of the rise of technology, momentum to teach balance to children is likely not going to come from the top down. The movement has to start with educating parents and teaching them to role model and draw boundaries with their children regarding how much screen time is okay.
A group called Zone In, based out British Columbia, has assembled a fascinating “fact sheet” that addresses various facets of the impact of technology on child development, behavior, and academics. They cite academic articles pertaining to developmental delays, obesity, psychological disorders, psychotropic medication, child development, academic performance, declining empathy, media violence, cyberbullying, and technology addiction. Each article they present suggests a correlation between technology overuse and varying symptoms. A 2010 article cited by Zone In reports a scary statistic:
Elementary aged children now average 8 hours per day using a combination of technologies (TV, video games, internet, cell phones and iPods), with total amount of exposure time averaging 11 hours per day. Two thirds of children report their parents do not restrict their access to technology, and 75% of these children have TV’s in their bedrooms (Kaiser Foundation Report 2010).
This fact is terrifying! Children demand dyadic interaction with real people. This stimulates adequate development of sensory integration, motor skills and interpersonal attachment. It is difficult parenting in this day and age of technology. Parents attention is often whisked away to their iphone or blackberry, as business, social networking, and news is at the palms of their hands. How is mom or dad supposed to tell their child not to text at the dinner table when they have their blackberries out responding to work emails?
The answer is not simple but it can start with parenting. Parents need to hold themselves to the same standard of that which they hold their children. For instance, limiting technology interaction outside of school and work can be a solid first step. Parents can model this by replacing technology time with family games, outings, and conversation. Kids need help setting limits, and this is where parenting comes in. Limiting time on facebook, twitter, youtube, television, and videogames is very important. Parents should be hyperaware of their child’s technology use and help them to balance it. The main thing for parents to teach is moderation, as technology skills are a crucial aspect of the 21st century work force. Kids need to help to discern when to turn off the computer or put down the phone and go play outside.