Electronic devices are harming our kids! This is an appeal to parents!
It doesn't take much effort to find research and studies that show the negative effects electronic devices are having on us, including our children. Here is just a sampling of what I found.
According to CBS news -
“Screen devices wreak havoc with the brain's frontal lobe. Diagnosis of ADHD in our children has taken a steep rise since the proliferation of screen devices.
We didn't know this when we first brought these shiny new toys into homes. But, now, we do know. Still, adults aren't doing anything about it. Why? Because we're addicted. Addiction hampers judgment.”
It goes on to say - “Yet, art, music, sports, play, healthy meals and green space -- things we know help the developing brain -- are on the chopping block of school districts' budgets annually.”
An article from TNW shares -
The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that American children spend a whopping seven hours a day in front of electronic media.
The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary – all those abilities are harmed.”
The articles uses the following example - Unlike a mother reading a story to a child, for example, a smartphone-told story spoon feeds images, word and pictures all at once to a young reader. Rather than having to take the time to process a mother’s voice into words, visualize complete pictures and exert a mental effort to follow a storyline, kids who follow stories on their smartphones get to be lazy. The smartphone does the thinking for them, and as a result, their own cognitive muscles remain weak. When a child gets too used to an immediate stimuli response, he will learn to always prefer a smartphone-style interaction (immediate gratification and response) over a real-world one.
US News reports that increased screen time is associated with higher rates of childhood obesity, behavior problems, ADHD, poor sleep quality, poor physical activity and poor school performance.
Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation posted an article on this in 2004 -
“Early television exposure in children ages 1-3 is associated with attention problems at age 7, according to a study from Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle published in the April issue of PEDIATRICS.
The study revealed that each hour of television watched per day at ages 1-3 increases the risk of attention problems, such as ADHD, by almost 10 percent at age 7.”
An article by AZ Central discusses the issue of isolation as associated with electronic devices. By interacting with friends, family members and instructors over electronic devices instead of in person, the child may be isolated and fail to develop normal social skills, like conversation abilities and etiquette. The same study pointed out that children may avoid social interaction or extracurricular activities to have more time to spend on the computer or a game console.
This topic appeared in the Huffington Post in 2015. It states-
“It’s no surprise that kids of all ages can get addicted to their electronic toys. That’s because every text that a kid sends or receives, every Facebook “like,” and every point scored during a video game creates a little hit of the feel-good chemical dopamine. This is the same rush that a drug addict gets from a hit of cocaine — and the same rush you get from having sex or eating a chocolate doughnut.
Heavy exposure to TV or other rapid-paced media may rewire kids’ brains to crave constant stimulation. So over time, it can get harder and harder for them to enjoy slower-paced activities like reading. For many kids, real life is a bore while virtual life is a high.”
Addiction programs now exist for technology addiction, and these include programs for extremely young children. Dr Richard Graham launched the UK’s first technology addiction programme in 2010, and only 3 years later he found himself treating a 4 year old with Ipad addiction problems.
As the article states, Dr Graham said that young technology addicts experienced the same withdrawal symptoms as alcoholics or heroin addicts, when the devices were taken away.
He warned that the condition prevented young people from forming normal social relationships, leaving them drained by the constant interaction.
So what do we do now? We might recognize that there is a problem, but still feel stuck because we don’t know what to do about it. First realize that it is never too late to make changes. Then commit to making some changes. These changes will greatly effect your life too. But the quality of your future depends on the quality of your now. Any sacrifices are investments in your own life and the lives of your children.
Ideas to get you started-
Check your own addiction.
Your children want to emulate your behavior. They don’t have the ability at their young age to decide if that behavior is best for them or not. When we, as parents, are glued to our devices the children become fascinated by them. They learn that these devices are more interesting than any of the world around them.
Model the lifestyle you are trying to encourage.
Model a lifestyle that has a healthy balance of quality family time, work, hobbies, exercise, relaxation, exposure to nature and community, and spiritual growth. This will take time and effort. But you must set the good example - no matter how badly you want to get on social media or play your favorite game. Resist! You are, after all, the adult.
Without giving thought at this point to your child’s habits, check your own. It’s a great place to start.
Some practical things to do -
Remove the TV from the bedroom.
Everyone’s bedroom, even yours.
Ban electronics from the dinner table.
Make mealtime an electronics-free zone – no TV, no smartphone, no tablet on the table. Remember, these rules apply to you too.
Put limitations on screen time.
Fight the boredom by making a list of things to do to keep people occupied.
Set aside play time.
Show your child he or she is more important than the screen, and do things the old-fashioned way. Play with your kids, and let their imaginations run wild. Take them to the park, a museum or help them build a fort in the living room.
Get interactive with your children.
There are times when screens are OK, but if you're going to use electronics, use them together as a family in an interactive way.
Help everyone find special places to enjoy nature.
Find a ditch among the trees, a hiding place under the trees, a rock that can function as a fortress or a sitting spot, a favorite walking path
Spend some time outside everyday
As you do, your kids will join you. Notice nature, pay attention to the birds, clouds, wildlife. Encourage your children to do the same.
Have equipment for outdoor fun visible and accessible
Keep frisbies, balls, tools for building forts, empty boxes, and anything else you can think of visible and handy. Easy access is sometimes all it takes for a little creativity to explode.
Invest time in a long-term endeavor
One of the pitfalls of the electronic world we live in is the desire for immediate gratification. Kids in general struggle with this anyways, but now we are living in a world that is making it much more pronounced. Especially when the parents are struggling with it now too. Find a hobby that requires long-term commitment and commit to it. What the endeavor is does not matter as much as the commitment to it.
To get you started in selecting one, here are some possible ideas - painting, rock collecting, bird watching, ice skating, martial arts, tennis, cooking, photography, etc.
Make some changes today. Don’t wait! The rest of your life starts right now. The investment is not only in your own life, but also in the lives of your children.