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Smartphones: More harmful than helpful?

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The smartphone has been touted to make lives easier and more mobile, but is it inadvertently causing more harm to our child than we realise? We weigh in here.

The gadget du jour of the digital age, the smartphone has certainly made an impact in the lives of everyone, parents and child included.

Thus, it is quite common to find children as young as one or two with smartphone or tablet in hand. Even more surprisingly how at ease they are sliding icons and playing games on these devices. However, are they really beneficial for our young ones or are we impeding their development by ‘showering them with this luxury’?

Familiarity impedes development
In a news report by Channel News Asia, it has been reported that regular use of smartphones and technological devices amongst children of developmental age (1 – 5 year-olds) can affect their motor skills, cognitive and social development.

According to education psychology expert Dr Stevanne Auerbach, “[iPads and handheld]devices cannot replace the traditional play value [that crayons, outdoor play, puzzles and books afford] and there can be repercussions that are detrimental to children."

Mummies smartphone hurt me
On the other side of the spectrum we also have children who are inadvertently being hurt because of these smartphones. This happens when parents or guardians are too busy texting, checking emails or chatting on these devices that they neglect watching what their children are actually doing.

Researchers have even gone to pinpoint this distraction as the cause for a sharp rise in playground falls and mishaps in the home with doctors in emergency departments in the UK believing that the rise can be partly attributed to the growing use of smartphones.

Parenting experts added that children are also more inclined to take risks and misbehave when they know that their parents are distracted or not necessarily watching them.

Figures
To understand the co-relation of smartphones and incidence of accidents in the playground, figures from the NHS show that in 2011, some 9,564 children were admitted to hospital having fallen from playground equipment, up from 7,232 in 2006/7.

Researchers have highlighted the fact that this rise coincided with the increasing availability and affordability of BlackBerrys and smartphones, such as Apple’s iPhone, in the market.

Advice from the experts
The reality is that, we are living in a world of immense distractions, however this should not be an excuse for us to be complacent when looking after our children. According to June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation, which runs nurseries in London said, “We are all guilty of being distracted by our phones. As a society, we need to start setting parameters about when it is and is not appropriate to use them.”

Think twice
As a parent then, you should think twice about giving your child your smartphone or tablet just to stop them from screaming as well as sending that text message when your eyes should be glued firmly on your child at the playground.

We want to know whether you think smartphones and other technological devices are beneficial or more harmful to your child.


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