Studies have shown that infants 0-2 years should not be exposed to any technology, children 3-5 years old should be limited to an hour a day, and ages 6-18 should be limited to two hours a day. This might sound strict – and I certainly remember watching more than two hours of TV when I was a teenager – but there are reasons these recommendations are in place.
1. Rapid Brain Growth
Rapid brain growth is affected by technology. From the ages of 0-2, infants’ brains triple in size! This rapid growth continues until you’re 21 years old. While your brain is developing, it’s important to use a wide variety of motor skills instead of just staring at a screen. It’s more important to learn how to grasp things, turn things, button buttons and zip zippers than it is to know how to poke at a graphic.
2. Sleep Deprivation
Even as an adult, you know how hard it is to turn off the phone and go to sleep! If I can’t sleep, I pick up my phone and start playing games, and before I know it, morning’s arrived. Imagine if you’re a kid with all this technology at your fingertips. I didn’t have a computer in my room as a kid, but it was hard enough for me to get off the family computer at bedtime. If I could have stayed online all hours of the night, I know I would have. It’s too easy to deprive yourself of sleep when you think you have something better going on. Restricting usage of technology and handheld devices will help ensure your child gets enough sleep.
3. Digital Dementia
Studies show being exposed to so much media so fast increases occurrences of attention deficit disorder. Watching so much on a screen causes your brain to “prune” the neuronal tracks that run to the frontal lobe, which decreases your ability to concentrate and form memories. When you’re a child, not being able to pay attention means you won’t be able to learn and retain information.
4. Delayed Development
If you’re just sitting around, staring and poking at a touch screen, your body isn’t using its muscles enough for development. Physical movement enhances a child’s ability to learn and pay attention, so it’s important they use a lot of their body for playing and learning as they grow.
5. Epidemic Obesity
Obesity is a logical concern if you’re talking about children sitting and staring at a screen instead of going outside to play. Studies have shown that children with a TV in their bedrooms have a 30% increased occurrence of obesity. Limiting children’s exposure to technology and encouraging them to exercise and play outside will help decrease chances of diabetes, strokes, and heart attacks later in life.
There is a lot of back and forth on the argument that violent games cause children to act violently, but it’s true that children re-enact things they see. Being exposed to violence, sexual deviance, and gore at a young age will influence them. It’s also possible that they will be more aggressive just because playing games can be frustrating at times, when you’re so close to winning and then mess up. I’ll admit to throwing a game controller or two…
7. Mental Illness
An overexposure to technology has been shown to increase childhood depression, autism, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, attachment disorders, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and problematic behavior. It’s better for children to engage in physical and social activities away from technology.
8. Unsustainable Lifestyle
Yes, technology is unavoidable in today’s society, and everyone should know how to use it. But if it’s all children are ever exposed to, then it’s all they’ll know. It’s important for children to be well-rounded, so they’ll have more opportunities open to them as they grow.
9. Radiation Emissions
Children’s brains are still developing, so they are more sensitive to radiation emissions coming from handheld devices. The World Health Organization has classified wireless devices as emitting possible carcinogens, which means you can’t be too careful. Whether the emissions are cancerous or not, they can still affect the development of a child’s brain and immune system.
As adults we are often addicted to technology, which means we are detaching from social situations around us – including being with our kids. This sets a bad example for the kids because they think it’s OK to do the same. They also aren’t being interacted with as much, so they turn to technology themselves. When playing with technology is one of the only things you have to do, it’s incredibly easy to get addicted!
Featured photo credit: tinkerbard via flickr.com