November 17, 2017| Beware! In this technology driven world, the technology holds the key to everything. Key to education, success and the gateway to hell. The present world is a device driven world, wherein the smartphones hold infinite power to control its users. The power to dictate your behaviour and the behaviour of your child.
Technology is vital to a child’s future achievement and is a necessary part of their education, but the screen time is an absolute contradiction.
In the absence of proper check, proper guidance and improper restrictions, the usage of screens can be dangerous for the children, with proven health implications. Implications such as lack of sleep, tiredness, exacerbated mental health issues, memory loss (es), increased laziness and constant rise in the cases of obesity. This further encourages social isolation which deeply affects a child’s growth, and turns into a toxic habit.
Studies have shown that children who delve too frequently on screen based apps and engage with smartphones for a considerable amount of time exhibit higher rate of aggression.
These purported education friendly mobile apps, games or software are generally designed to attract and hook their users, effectively too addictive for kids.
Surprisingly, the negative effects of excessive exposure to smartphones and technology is not limited to the aforementioned details. There are insidious effects of digital media on young children too. Primarily, the younger children with the inability to identify the differences between advertisements, sponsored pages, real pages and cognitive spams. These children are easy targets in the cases of identity stealing. The recent exposure to the Sarahah app which resulted into massive cyber bullying, and the blue whale game which resulted in the death of hundred(s) of youngsters is a prime example of such software(s) affecting the minds of the users.
It is also out of the lack in sophistication and inexperience that the children fail to think critically of what they have seen and fail to evaluate its veracity. This leaves them vulnerable to absorb the social and moral messages appearing on the screens, perpetuating stereotypes and biases.
As the idiom goes, “nothing is bad if everything is in moderation”, there is nothing inherently bad if the children’s exposure to such technology is kept in moderation and under check. The global expert consensus clearly speculates on years of research that the result of the exposure is determined by the context and kind of content the children have been exposed to. Content herein denotes what the children are exposed to and are watching, while context denotes the kind of engagement they have thereafter.
As perceived from the work of social platforms such as facebook, twitter and google, there is a wide range of content being made exclusively for kids. These contents, with a majority being junk, are directly marketed to the children and are meaninglessly termed as educational to bypass the protective sights of the adults or parents.
But don’t be fooled by what you are being sold, especially with the educational stickers on the apps, toys, and/ or shows. These are purposefully designed and packaged to lure well-meaning parents into purchase. There is an existing US $ 6 Billion industry existing alone in India which happens to be a developing country, wherein the sellers of the content are driven by finding and hooking new viewers and users. This entertainment is governed by colours, characters, plots and visual appeasement to keep the users engrossed with, rather than actually focus on educative content. If it was purely educative with appeasement, then it wouldn’t have been age specific. Any good content is age appropriate and free of any stereotype. It is bound to have been made with developmental goals in mind and promote inclusivity, enhance problem solving and empathy in inter-personal relationships.
As per the US Department of Health and Human Services estimate, the American children on an average spend 7 hours a day in front of electronic media. Whereas, the children as young as 2 years of age regularly play games on their smartphones or tablets/ i-pads and have playroom toys that involve touch screens. Resultant, this causes permanent damage to their still developing brains.
Some surprising facts:
- 3-in-4 teens spend less time outside than prisoners;
- 1 in 4 children think video games are a form of exercise;
- 4-in-5 teens have a social media account by age of 12;
- 6-in-10 children don’t get enough sleep;
- The average age for a child to get their first smartphone is 11.8 years (and falling);
- Children on an average of 7 out of 10 who follow stories on their smartphones tend to be lazy.
Ironically, the parents and adults of our times have to be blamed, even if partially, for the havoc they have brought to the children. In the absence of time and devotion due to excessive work and busyness, parents reach for their smartphones or mobiles to engage the children up or to keep them busy. In the absence of a private engagement with children, and no one on one engagement the children feel deprived of a proper mentorship and guidance. Inter alia in the absence of parental explanation the probability of children being misled by the application rises substantially. Remember the blue whale game, it spread because people engaged too much with the application and the people sitting on the other side took psychological advantage of the same.
Yes, I agree, that kids tend to learn a lot many things, like guitar, languages and can teach themselves a variety of things from the contents available online, but these substantial things are outweighed by the cons. Despite the functional aspects of the smartphones and gadgets for busy parents or the parents who need a break from parenting, over exposure to these technological advancement can leave a long term impact on the children.
Remember, devices themselves are not going to teach children empathy, compassion, morals, values and manners without bias. If you are jumping to the screen time in a bid to give your children an educational edge, you might actually be doing significantly more harm than good to them.
Yes indeed, we are lucky to have lived in the time of technological advancement, but it’s high time that we learn to use them as well, in moderation.
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