Turning On and Tuning Out

techBy now, you have likely seen the video entitled “A Magazine Is An iPad That Doesn’t Work,” in which a baby pokes and swipes a fashion magazine, confused and frustrated by the lack of response to her touch.  Yes, it’s funny.  Until you consider the long-term impact of technology on the development of this generation.

Recent thinking and research points to many more negative effects than positive.  Some of the most pronounced are attention issues, diminished creativity and imagination, decreased physical activity, communication deficits and compromised social skills. These issues have become so prevalent that on October 28, 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communication and Media released guidelines to help monitor children’s media access.

An article in the Huffington Post, “The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child” paints a daunting picture of the next generation of children, raised on iPods, iPads and iTouch.  Author and occupational therapist, Chris Rowan, says, “Children now rely on technology for the majority of their play, grossly limiting challenges to their creativity and imaginations, as well as limiting necessary challenges to their bodies to achieve optimal sensory and motor development. … Hard-wired for high-speed, today’s young are entering school struggling with self-regulation and attention skills necessary for learning, eventually becoming significant behavior management problems for teachers in the classroom.”

The AAP makes the following recommendations to parents:

* Limit the amount of total entertainment screen time to less than 1-2 hours per day

* Discourage screen media exposure for children under 2 years of age

* Keep the TV set and internet-connected electronic devices out of your child’s bedroom

* Monitor the media your children are using and accessing, including any web sites they are visiting and social media sites they may be using

* Watch TV, movies and videos with your children and teenagers and use this as a way to bring up a discussion about important family values

* Model active parenting by establishing a family plan for all media, enforcing a “curfew” for media devices and cell phones

* Establish reasonable but firm rules about cell phones, texting, internet and social media use

The “art of childhood” is being lost.  Down time is a good thing.  Staring out the window can provide much-needed opportunities to simply sit, think and daydream.   This kind of unstructured time can be the impetus for so much creativity…drawing, creating games, playing “make-believe.”  Think back to what you did when you were a child with time on your hands and what it taught you about cooperation, teamwork and self-reliance.  Playdates that revolve around electronics deprive children of the opportunity to develop in these areas.  I would rather see children play with board games, Legos, Matchbox cars and dolls.  Let them do craft projects or make sock puppets.  Let them argue, negotiate and compromise.  Let them learn to celebrate winning and cope with losing.

As with many things, moderation is the key.  Some media is not bad, but it is important to pay attention to the type of media and the frequency of use.  And make sure your kids get a healthy dose of non-electronic entertainment.  What do you find most challenging about media and technology when it comes to your kids?  I’d love to hear from you, so please post your comment below.