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One of the biggest challenge parents are facing in this digital era is how, and how much to reduce the amount of time our children should be spending on technologies such as cell phones, tablets, video games, televisions, and computers. But the problem does not just stop there, parents are also finding it increasingly difficult in trying to get their children off these said devices.

 

It is no secret that technology has become an integral component of our daily life. In fact, it is becoming rare to see children without a digital device in hand wherever we go. As a result, the question is not whether children are increasingly exposed to technology because that itself is apparent, especially when the toys they play with already have some sort of technology embedded in them. Hence, the concern is more of how that exposure to technology impacts children. And it is our job as parents to find the right ways for our children to interact with technology. Although the negative impacts of screen time are mostly talked about in the news and seems to be a popular topic of conversation, it is important to note that the use of technologies are not all the bad. Technology is also being used more and more in educational settings, like the classroom which shows that there are positive impacts of technology on children as well.

 

It is often easy to be focused on wanting to ensure the best for our children that we sometimes forget to model the manner and behavior for them to see. Technology is just as appealing and convenient for us as it is for our children and hence, consider also taking a break from your own screens as a good example to set for your children.

 

What is recommended?

Parents and educators have heard that screen time for children should be limited and it does not seem practical to avoid all technology especially in today’s digital world. Hence The American Academy of Pediatrics have helped to breakdown in terms of age of exposure and recommended the following screen times for children of different age groups (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2016):

Babies and toddlers (up to 18 months old): No screen time with the exception of video-chatting with family and friends

Toddlers (up to 24 months old): Some screen time accompanied with a parent or caregiver

Preschoolers (2-4 years old): No more than 1 hour a day of educational programming, together with a parent or caregiver who can help them to understand what they are seeing.

Kids and teens (5-18years): Parents should place consistent limits on screen time, which includes TV, social media and video games.

 

Technology milestones for different ages

Hence, with the recommended screen time given by The American Academy of Pediatrics, here are some of the ways you can ensure positive technology use for children in their different age group.

 

Toddlers

Though screen time is not recommended for toddlers, there is however, one exception as mentioned above, video calls. This is because video chatting with friends and relatives is recognized as quality time interacting with others (Brooks, 2018).

 

One screen time tip would be to be with your toddlers at all times during screen time and to interact with them. That can mean playing an educational game with your child or talking about something you see in an age appropriate tv show or video instead of just leaving your child to spend time alone just staring at a screen.

 

Preschoolers

Imaginative play and emerging creativity are a key part of preschoolers’ development. Therefore, you can encourage your child to write and star in their own theatrical production and use any video technology to film their own onstage adventures. They can even use their clay figures and other toys as props (Brooks, 2018).

 

Kids and teens

This is the age where children become even more comfortable with technology. One way to help engage them with technology while ensuring sight of their learning is to encourage them to research their natural interest and hobbies using videos and eBooks and to also continue to support their creativity with programs that allow them to make their own music or draw their own comic books (Brooks, 2018).

 

Positive impact of technology on children – The Good

 

  • Enhances Learning

Over the past few years, technology has become integrated into the classroom to enhance learning experience for children (Stueber, 2019). With more schools providing their students with iPads and laptops to boost collaboration and engage students in the learning process it has allowed learning to be more meaningful.

 

By having technology in the classroom, students gain greater control of their education and they are able to learn at their own pace. This is important because no child is the same which means that every child learns at their own pace. Hence, integrating technology into the classroom can better aid students in learning at a rate that is comfortable for them, enabling them to retain information better (Nnodim, 2018).

 

  • Allow creativity and freedom of expression

Children have big imaginations and oftentimes they are too big to be contained. In the past children only had art supplies like crayons and colored markers at their disposal to use for their creativity but now children have computers, tablets and so much more to help them turn their thoughts into reality. With technology they are now able to create their own animations, movies, and even songs and the skills learned from interacting with technology each have an attached creative form of expression (Ryan, 2018).

  

Negative impact of technology on children – The Bad

 

  •  Diminishes Relationships and Social Skills

Observation is the primary way children learn, as they listen to learn new language, observe conversations, read facial expressions and watch how others navigate emotional situations. Thus, a heavy reliance on technology to communicate may hinder the child’s people skills (Nguyen, 2018).

 

Furthermore, as children use mobile phones more and more they are more apt to be virtually connected with family and friends as they would tend to become more likely to text, chat on social media, or connect through gaming, rather than spending time with them physically (Stueber, 2019).

 

  • Reduces Self-Soothing and Self-Regulation

It is certainly very tempting to hand over an iPhone or some sort of technology device to a screaming child to calm them down or ease their frustration. However, handing a child a mobile device or tablet to distract them from raging may actually negatively affect the child’s opportunity to learn how to self soothe and self-regulate in those moments of tantrums (Walters, 2015).

 

Learning how to self-regulate and deal with emotions is a critical life skill. It is a skill that has to be learned from experience, and children have to experience these emotions first-hand in order to learn how to respond to them in a socially-appropriate way (Goodwin, 2015). By using a digital pacifier whenever a child starts throwing a tantrum, they would not be able to experience these emotions and thus be able to learn how to respond to them.

 

Unfortunately, the negative impact of technology does not stop there, in some cases, the negative impact of technology can also lead to some long-term effects on children, that are more detrimental and dangerous. For example, TikTok has become one of the most influential social media applications amongst children but troubling reports have emerged recently about risky behaviors that children are engaging in just to get noticed on the platform and one of them is the salt and ice challenge. This dangerous challenge involves putting salt on one’s skin and holding an ice cube on the spot for as long as possible. By doing so, it creates a chemical reaction that causes pain and can even lead to frostbites, first-or second-degree burns (Scott, 2020). And this is where technology becomes evil, because the impact is not just negative but it becomes detrimental and even life threatening.

 

Childhood is a very critical stage for the development of the child. It is a very subtle process that builds the foundational understanding of a child about the world. The way technology is used determines its impact on the child’ development. Therefore, it is important as parents to make sure we use the technology we have to our children’s advantage and for its good and not its bad and evil.

 

Camellia Wong (MA), Demi Ng

 

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References

 

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016, January 11). Where We Stand: Screen Time. Retrieved from

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Where-We-Stand-TV-Viewing-Time.aspx#:~:text=Letting%20children%20use%20media%20by,day%20of%20high%2Dquality%20programming.

 

Brooks, A. (2018, September 17). Kids and Technology: Age- Appropriate Milestones to Aim for Retrieved from

https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/technology/blog/kids-and-technology/

 

Goodwin, K. (2015, June 1). Screaming or Screening: Children’s Self-regulation in an Age of Screens. Retrieved from

https://drkristygoodwin.com/screaming-or-screening-childrens-self-regulation-in-an-age-of-screens/

 

Nguyen, A. (2018, March 14). Is technology impacting my child’s social and communications skills? Retrieved from

https://www.inquirer.com/philly/health/kids-families/is-technology-impacting-my-childs-social-and-communications-skills-20180314.html

 

Nnodim, C. (2018, June 25). How Technology Has Had a Positive Impact in the Classroom. Retrieved from

 

Ryan. (2018, May 10). Benefits of Technology & the Right Kind of Screen Time for Children. Retrieved from

https://www.idtech.com/blog/benefits-of-technology-for-children

 

Scott, C. (2020, August 1). Most Dangerous & Idiotic TikTok Trends and Challenges. Retrieved from https://parentology.com/16-dangerous-tiktok-trends-to-watch-out-for/2/

 

Stueber, S. (2019, October 22). The positive and negative effects of technology on children. Retrieved from https://www.thesilverlining.com/westbendcares/blog/the-positive-and-negative-effects-of-technology-on-children

 

Walters, J. (2015, February 2). Tablets and smartphones may affect social and emotional development, scientist speculates. Retrieved from

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/01/toddler-brains-research-smartphones-damage-social-development

 

 

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