How many hours a day do your kids spend looking at a screen? This includes the television, tablets, phone screens, computers or any other digital devices that are screen based. Is it more than you would care to admit? If it is, you might want to think twice before allowing them to spend the same amount of time on those devices in the future. New studies being conducted and released are beginning to point to the excessive use of these technologies as the leading cause of some of the biggest problems with today's youth.
It is no secret that children of this generation are more often exposed to all different kinds of media around them. Young kids play games on tablets, phones, and computers, as well as watch many different television programs for hours on any given night or weekend. These devices are the outlet that most parents go to in order to keep their children busy, because it's easy. Now, more than ever families are comprised of two parents who work full time. It's not always easy balancing work with family life, but that is to be expected. Your parents didn't have all the time in the world to spend with you either. They just handled it differently. They sent you outside and said "go play."
There is a reason they sent you and your siblings outside to play with other kids. It fostered a sense of community and friendship, teaching valuable life lessons by interacting face to face with other kids your age. That kind of personal interaction leads to an increased ability to communicate and coexist with others in society. Growing up you were taught to value having personal conversations with someone face to face as opposed to just talking to someone over a text message, a medium that does not promote personal relationships.
Those days are over. Companies like Apple and Microsoft launched these great new devices, and realized that they could market kid friendly games to the new younger generation, and those advertisements worked. Kids flocked to these games and it became a social necessity to have all the latest and greatest devices. Kids in middle and elementary school were getting cell phones, something that wasn't even a consideration when you were their age. If you survived without it, so can they.
The longer that kids spend on these screen based devices, the more harmful they becomes. This phenomenon is new, and as a result, there are not very many conclusive studies to report definitive harmful effects. However, Susan Linn, a psychologists at Harvard Medical School has studied the effects of these tablets on young children and has linked their overuse to "a host of childhood problems, including poor school performance, attention issues, sleep disturbance, obesity, and more." Linn is not the only one who recommends that you limit screen time of your kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends discouraging screen time for children younger than two and setting limits on time and content for older children.
Companies who sell these devices and games or apps claim that their devices do enhance learning for young children because their apps teach important lessons. However, a 2012 Australian study found that only 2% of all the apps marketed for these devices as educational for young children promote the kind of learning that is necessary in the adolescent stages.
If children are learning the majority of their lifelong habits in their early childhood years, it is important that basic learning takes place during these years. One fact that is simply understood throughout the community of educators is that for healthy brain development, hands on play, active play, and face to face engagement with adults who love them are most effective. Young kids need to experience the world around them through their own senses rather than what they may see or hear on a digital device. They need to explore the world, develop their creativity, and construct problem solving to learn social skills to build the ability to work and play with others. Looking at the screen of a tablet or television does not foster those relationships, and therefore it seems wasteful for kids to spend a majority of their days engaging in screen-based activities as opposed to real life, face to face interactions.
Instead of letting your kids spend the whole day watching television, or playing computer game, send them outside to play or go outside and play with them. Engage your children in personal, face-to-face interactions because in the end that will be more beneficial to their learning than any game that they could ever play staring at a screen for hours on end. Try to go a week without letting your kids use any digital devices and see how it goes, you might actually enjoy it!