By Marisa Higley
As a child I lived a life almost completely without technology. I spent my time outside, climbed trees, played in the mud and dirt, jumped on the trampoline, and picked raspberries from our bushes. Every chance I had I was outside exploring. I rarely spent time inside the house. The only time I ever watched television was Saturday morning cartoons. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was fifteen years old and even then, it was just a flip phone. That was only ten years ago.
Today there are four year olds that have cell phones and not just a simple flip phone, but a touch screen filled with games and videos. Children today spend so much of their time watching television shows or playing games on mobile devices such as cell phones, tablets, or iPads. They watch videos on YouTube and play video games for hours on end.
What happened to our children going outside to play and explore the world? What happened to climbing trees and skinning their knees? What happened to getting dirty and jumping in leaves? What happened to staying outside until the street lights turned on? Do our children know what a street light is? Or do they just know how to use a flashlight on a phone?
Children and adolescents spend 7–8 hours a day using a variety of media including television, video games, and computers which is more than any other activity they do on a daily basis. By children using so much technology, are we stunting our children’s development? One study found that children reading e-books became distracted from the material they were reading. They weren’t able to fully comprehend the material. Technology use really is stunting our children’s comprehension and reading development.
When our children’s faces are glued to a screen can they really develop socially? Technology is affecting our children’s ability to have proper social skills. Technology use prevents children and youth from learning the proper behavior and social skills necessary to make it in this world. One study examined 1,600 six-year-olds and the effects mobile devices have on their emotional, social, and behavioral well-being. The study found that an increase in behavioral problems occurred when children used mobile devices. They found that the frequency of mobile device use lead children to externalize their problems through hyperactivity, aggression, and inattention. Mobile device use prevents children from connecting with other children face-to-face. It prevents them from learning and developing how to speak and interact with other children and even adults. Without that necessary face-to-face interaction our children will lack the ability to socialize properly.
In this technologically-based world we live in, can we prevent our children from being around it, using it, and the negative affects of tech consumption? I believe we can. We can first start with ourselves. We, as adults, can limit the amount of time we are on our devices. Children see us as the ultimate examples. How can we expect our children to do this if we can’t do it ourselves? Our children watch us more than you think.
I have an almost 3-year-old son. He found a charging bank, a little box that you can plug your phone into to charge. My son uses it as a cell phone. He pretends to text on it, call people on it, and even pretends to watch videos on it. My first response was, “Is this really that harmful? He is just pretending and playing. He is using his imagination.” My second thought was “Oh my gosh, he learned that from us”.
In this moment I was determined to lessen my phone time, especially around him. Reducing the use of our mobile devices helps our children see that they are more important than what we do on our phones. How often do we see parents taking their children to the park, but they are sitting on a park bench on their phones instead of really spending time with their kids?
Another thing we can do besides lessening our own use of our mobile devices is show them how to use their imagination. In today’s world there is a lack of imagination in our children. How often do our children say, “I’m bored”? Do our children know how to use their imagination? If not, teach them! Build a fort in the family room and pretend it’s your castle. Jump around on the furniture playing “Don’t touch the lava (ground)” game. Go outside and play the classic games of tag, Red Rover, Simon says, and Hands Up Stands Up. Teach them how to have fun without the distractions of technology.
Let’s be proactive in our children’s learning and development. Let’s learn with them. And let’s encourage their independent creativity away from technology’s grip.