The subject of children’s relationship with technology is increasingly being approached by child development specialists. Rapid technological evolution does not yet allow for a correct analysis of the long-term effects that excessive use of “gadgets” (phone, tablet, computer, play-station etc.) has on children’s brain development, especially in the case of young children up to 6 years of age.
However, recent imaging studies indicate that, overused and too early, technology leads to alteration of neurodevelopment, affecting the correct formation of neural networks of the brain. There are, therefore, delays in development, especially in the area of language and communication.
Numerous studies reveal the growing dependence of children and teenagers on a tablet, phone or computer, spending more time using these gadgets than doing sports or having a direct relationship with other children. There are, however, benefits of technological advancement, especially in the area of education: for school children and teenagers, a lot of educational resources are available on-line, which, used correctly, help develop thinking, reasoning, logic, attention and memory.
Not every child or teenager can get addicted to his phone or tablet. It is important to distinguish between passion and addiction. Some children are simply talented and their passion will definitely turn into a successful career later. Others, however, especially against a background of temperamental vulnerabilities (e.g. low self-esteem, shyness, school or social anxiety, developmental disabilities, learning difficulties, etc.) or a familial conflict, end up in a virtual world, becoming addicted to it.
Last but not least, parents need to be aware that, at least until the age of majority, the responsibility for raising children is their full responsibility, so the “remote control” is at them. We have to recognize that parents are the ones who create the prerequisites for technology dependency in children: many children are raised in front of the TV, and the tablet and the phone are the most frequently offered holiday gifts!
Gadgets have somehow become tools for “buying” moments of peace for parents as well as means of bribery to make children meet their demands. It is parents who can take control of the situation by taking the necessary steps in time to avoid child technology addiction.
The biggest mistakes parents make about access to technology are mainly related to the lack of limits imposed on the use of the Internet or other similar concerns. In order to counteract this growing interest of the child, you should have a family program in which you carry out certain activities that do not involve any technical means. And if you really want to be a good example for your child, when you play together or spend quality time in any other way, leave the phone aside. You can put it on silent mode so it does not distract you.
Children have different personalities and what works for one can have a totally opposite effect on another. However, the more a child becomes more dependent on technology, the harder it will be to persuade him to quit it. As with other aspects of life, prevention is the healthiest. Set up time intervals in which no family member uses the technology. Spend time doing other activities at home or outside: play, read, walk, etc.
Create a timetable with delimited periods for different activities (e.g. time to do homework and time for playing on the internet). When a fixed schedule intervenes, discussions about this topic diminish or disappear. In general, establish a computer program during the week and another one during the weekend. For example, during the weekend the child is allowed to use gadgets two hours a day and during the week only half an hour.
Avoid having a TV, computer or laptop in your child’s room. They have their place in a common space (the living room, for example), thus being able to better monitor the time spent by the child in their company. Nothing can replace socialization and communication, and the time spent watching a screen only favors the lack thereof. The key is the balance between the use of technology and other activities to avoid future dependence on it.
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