Children and electronics


Yes, it's Christmas--and what do the kids want? A new "skin" for Fortnite? A tablet so they can watch their favorite "youtubers?" A game system? Kids on average spend 6-7 hours per day looking at a screen, usually online. That's basically all their free time. As a therapist I rarely meet a kid who goes outside except for formal competitive sports in high school. What is the effect?

I have seen two great articles on the possible harm to children created by 1) too-early technology use, and 2) technology overuse. I have posted those links below, but first...

There is an obvious point to make, which is the "opportunity cost"--what they could be doing instead. Video games breed impatience, aversion to creativity, and make children irritable. Creative play like playing with Legos could not be more different. Creative play and art are powerful tools for building patience and problem-solving. Nature is a wonderful teacher, especially if enjoyed with a parent. I include fishing and hunting in this, which offer lifelong lessons and bonding with parents [click here for country song on this topic!]. Reading is similar, provided the book is on grade-level and is not trash. Kids learn to love reading if they get to read what they love, and schools don't help with that, so you might have to, as a parent. Thank goodness for public libraries. Music, if not made into a competition sport, is a fulfilling and lasting hobby for children to learn. If your answer is, "My kids get bored with that! They hate it! Not all kids like that stuff!" my answer is, turn off the game system, because your children have become trained to be this way. Children are not naturally averse to healthy free-time activities; we allow it to happen.

The other obvious point is that some parents don't realize the dangers of social media bullying, online predators, easy access to pornography, and the callousness kids build up to violence through video games. Video games don't cause violence, but for kids predisposed to negative behaviors, they form a powerful reinforcement. I won't even mention how using a tablet or game system as a babysitter, especially at an early age, weakens critical attachment processes that are necessary for mental health and the ability to form loving relationships.

So here are two articles that inspired me to write this post. One has to do with the possibility that technology is leading to an increase in mental illness in children, and the other refutes the idea that introducing children to technology at an early age has benefits, and is in fact harmful.

Click for the article:

[Childhood mental illness and technology use]

[Young children and digital toys]