Is technology taking over the kids?

By Linda Bates County extension agent
This article was published January 9, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

Twenty years ago, children were playing outside all day, riding bikes, playing sports and building forts. Children of the past created their own form of play that didn't require costly equipment or parental supervision. Those children got up and moved around. Their sensory world was nature based and simple. Family time meant spending time doing chores, and children had expectations to meet on a daily basis. Families came together at the dining room table to eat and talk about their day. Even after dinner, that same dining table became the center for baking, crafts and homework.

Things are quite different these days because of technology's impact on the 21st century family. While juggling school, work, home and community activities, parents now rely heavily on technology to make their lives faster and more efficient. The technology that was meant to make life easier could well be causing a disintegration of core values that held families together years ago. Technology as simple as TV, internet, video games, iPads, and cell phones has advanced so rapidly, that families do not even notice the impact on their family structure and lifestyles. A 2010 study showed that elementary-aged children average more than seven hours per day on some form of entertainment technology, 75 percent of children have TVs in their bedrooms, and 50 percent of North American homes have the TV on all day. Families no longer engage in the dining room table conversations that were common just a few short years ago. Family sit-down dinners have been replaced by the "big screen" and take out meals.

Children who rely on technology for the majority of their play or entertainment, limit their creativity and imagination because their bodies have not fully developed optimal sensory and motor development. Bodies that sit all day are bombarded with so much sensory stimulation that it could be causing some kids to become "hard-wired for high speed." This could contribute to the growing number of children who are entering school struggling with self-control and the attention skills needed for learning. Short attention skills can become behavior management problems for teachers in the classroom.

Today's technology offers somewhat frenzied, chaotic entertainment to a young sedentary body. Studies are showing that the impact of the advancing technology on children manifests in the form of increased physical, psychological and behavior disorders. Health and education systems are also beginning to see a connection. Child obesity and diabetes, increased diagnoses of ADHD and autism, coordination disorder, sensory processing disorder, and sleep disorders are associated with technology overuse.

So what is a parent to do? No one can argue the benefits of advanced technology. In this fast-paced world with both parents working long hours, parents are increasingly resorting to providing their children with more TV, video games, and cell phone devices. Technology could, however, be creating a huge disconnect between parent and child. Parents need to set limits on the amount of screen time to which their kids are exposed. They should take time to turn off the TV or laptop to play a game or read a book with the children. Kids need lots of hugging, playing and rough-housing. Parents should make sure their kids have lots of face-to-face interaction with friends and family. Parents are the children's main role models, so it is important that the kids see them set down the cellphones when talking and interacting with others. If doing the "real" thing is more fun than watching it on a screen, the kids will put down those devices and join in! Providing some "real" things for parents and the kids to do together will help reduce screen time. Technology is an awesome thing, but it does have its downfalls when it comes to youngsters.

Master Gardeners

A new Master Gardeners training class will soon begin. Call for an application or drop by the office at 236 Woodbine if you want to take the training. If interested in becoming a Master Gardener and would like more information, you're welcome to attend their meetings at 1 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge; call the Extension office; or email abates@uaex.edu.

Society on 01/09/2017
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