These days, it’s not difficult to find a child whose face is lit by a mobile device clutched in his tiny hands. In fact it’s become the norm in this century for children to acquire their first gadget at a young age.
“Though I was one of the first to foresee how insidiously technology would penetrate youngsters’ lives,” says psychologist Sue Palmer, “even I’ve been stunned at how quickly even the tiniest have become slaves to screens—and how utterly older ones are defined by their virtual personas.”
When she published her book “Toxic Childhood,” warning about the dangers of too much screen time in young people, Facebook was barely website we now know.
And yet the book’s wisdom has not been diminished by time past. They ring truer now, in fact.
In a research she and her colleagues conducted, they established links between excessive screen-time with a cornucopia of maladies including obesity, sleep disorders, aggression, poor social skills, depression and academic under-achievement.
“It’s little wonder, then, that the boom in iPads and smartphones has coincided with further deterioration in the physical and mental health of children of all ages,” Sue says in her The Daily Mail blog.
The worst part about all this isn’t the health complications they acquire (although they’re bad, too), but things they displace—real-life experiences and interactions.
“Today’s children have far fewer opportunities for what I call ‘real play.’ They are no longer learning through first-hand experiences how to be human and are much less likely to play or socialize outdoors or with others.”
Among a plethora of benefits, real play develops problem-solving capabilities, initiative, perseverance, and emotional resilience.
Sue also said that should the neural pathways which control social and imaginative responses not be developed in early childhood, they are much harder to revive later on in life.
“The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends no screen-time for children under two and a maximum two hours a day there-after,” she said.
“This is not just due to a proven link between screen-time and attention disorders, but because it eliminates other activities essential for building healthy bodies and brains.”
Everyone, including children, more or less has to use technology these days because that’s simply how the world is going; there’s no point in rejecting it.
But that doesn’t make it okay to let children spend valuable hours glued to their devices, after all, as Sue says, “self-confidence, emotional resilience, creative thinking, social skills and the capacity for focused thought will stand them in good stead whatever the future brings.”
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