With technology becoming ubiquitous and almost unavoidable, parents have become the unwitting lab assistants in a giant experiment on their children – the tablet computer, and the smart phone now seem to rule an almost zombie-like generation, and now even the tiniest children are given the iPad to play with. Yet we don’t know the long term effects.
Sue Palmer says in her article here (Click!) that screen time for children is already having damaging effects on them – not least from lack of exercise! I quote:
“Today, on average, children spend five to six hours a day staring at screens. And they’re often on two or more screens at once – for example, watching TV while playing on an iPad.
Because technology moves so fast, and children have embraced it so quickly, it’s been difficult for parents to control it. And when it comes to spending a childhood in front of a screen, this generation are like lab rats. The long-term impact is not known.
Even before iPads hit the market in 2010, experts were warning that 80 per cent of children arrived at school with poor co-ordination, due to a sedentary lifestyle.
Along with colleagues in the field of child development, I’d seen a rise in prescriptions for Ritalin, a drug for attention deficit and hyperactivity – a four-fold increase in less than a decade.”
“When the little girl pointed at the sweets at the checkout, her mother said: ‘No, they’re bad for your teeth.’ So her daughter, who was no more than two, did what small children often do at such times. She threw a tantrum.
What happened next horrified me. The embarrassed mother found her iPad in her bag and thrust it into her daughter’s hands. Peace was restored immediately.
This incident, which happened three years ago, was the first time I saw a tablet computer used as a pacifier. It certainly wasn’t the last. Since then, I’ve seen many tiny children barely able to toddle yet expertly swiping an iPad – not to mention countless teenagers, smartphone in hand, lost to the real world as they tap out texts.”
So what can parents do, when they’ve already witnessed the reduction in concentration their kids are displaying, and the constant reaching for the smart phone to text the friend who is sitting next to them?
Don’t give up parenting! Don’t stop because they’re 13 – no! Don’t stop until they are legally adults! Why do I say this? You have a chance to influence them for the better, even if you’ve been late to the realisation of the harm too much screen-time is having. Explain, and put a stop to it. Don’t be bullied – if your children can bully you, you need to consider what kind of adults they will make outside your home! That’s a scary thought perhaps. Be strong and PARENT them, because once they leave home they will have to parent themselves. Help them while they still listen to you!
Lis Goodwin, your voice coach