TV, computer games, internet, mobiles: are kids being exposed to too much technology?

This is a guest post, but I have blogged before about screen time and would love your opinions on this.

In today’s world of smartphones and tablets, it is becoming a rare sight to meet a child who does not have immediate access to a piece of technology that would have been unimaginable just 15 years ago. In fact, around 20% of children under the age of 16 now own a smartphone, with the vast majority having access to 3D TVs, computer games and the Internet either at home or at school.

With such a large amount of technology available to the youth of today, a number of concerned parents and child protection groups are asking if kids are now exposed to too much, too soon.

One of the main arguments put forward by the “anti-technology” camp is that exposure to such an array of high-tech devices is disrupting our children’s development by limiting their access to other activities that would otherwise encourage creativity and boost the curiosity in young minds. One children’s expert even went so far as to suggest that choosing to play with an iPad over a jigsaw can “discourage social interaction and genuine child-like play”.

There are also growing concerns over the type of content that children now have access to, with violent video games and inappropriate websites just a few clicks away, and the softening of television and film age ratings. Horror stories in the news have only heightened these concerns in recent years, leading some to believe that children should have their access to technology limited to just a few hours a day, giving them more time to spend outdoors or interacting with other children.

Whilst these concerns are all valid, it is important not to lose sight of the innate value of technology to today’s youth. The recent Olympic games are a prime example of the benefit of television to children, with 90% of the entire UK population having tuned in to watch at least 15 minutes of live coverage over its two week duration. The ability for children to find out more about and interact with positive role models such as the Olympic summer heroes is made possible by access to technology.

It has also been suggested that technology has revolutionised the way in which children learn, giving them access to innovative educational resources by way of newly developed apps, or by making revision fun with programs such as the BBC’s GCSE Bitesize series. The benefits of technology can also be seen in the development of children with educational difficulties, with websites and other resources available to help children with conditions from mild dyslexia to extreme autism.

Overall, the question of whether children are being exposed to too much technology remains extremely difficult to answer in a general sense. With parents able to limit the time spent in front of the television and monitor or restrict online activity, it is arguable that technology has become an invaluable educational and developmental resource for our young, allowing them to witness global events and take part in new experiences from their own homes.

Feel strongly about this topic or have an experience to share? Then please leave your comments below.

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9 Responses

Zoe | 09.06.12

I think everything in moderation. Moderation is key. I am against children having mobile phones though. When all my daughters friends have one though I’m not sure what I’ll do.

Jen Walshaw | 09.06.12

Zoe » I agree moderation is key for me too, we have a no screen time after 6pm rule and I am not one for mobiles when small. Senior school maybe

Jelly Babies | 09.06.12

Definitely in moderation. I miss the days of kids having more fun with cardboard boxes rather than knowing how to use an I phone better than I do!

Sarah A. | 09.06.12

I agree with the moderation approach. From a certain perspective it’s a shame children are exposed to technology so soon and are using their imaginations less, but that’s a by-product of the age we live in. It wouldn’t be possible (or a good idea) to drastically cut down screen time when it’s everywhere and there are plenty of benefits but I understand there is also a lot of inappropriate and explicit material. It is up to us to moderate how much our children are exposed to it, to educate them about what is right and wrong and how to use technology appropriately, and to continue to encourage them to try other activities like board games, sports and playing outside more often. Thanks, Sarah @ Goodheart Gifts.

Well as you have said it’s all about moderation and yes technology always seems a little better to children (eg choosing a computer game over a jigsaw) but that is where we as parents come in and funny enough PARENT!

As you and I know though there are some parents who are just too pleased to pass over their parenting to the TV or computer and it’s those who give the rest of us who embrace technology as an aid a bad name!

It was easy to limit a childs use of technology when my little ones were young. Nowadays everything they do seems to revolve around the constant use of technology, if they watch a 30 minute program on TV it instructs them to go on to the corresponding website and play games or activities.

Technology isn’t a bad thing but it is really important, in my opinion, for parents to encourage kids to use the imaginative and creative sections of their brain, this is hard when all they want to do is look at a website or watch a TV show.

Susan Mann | 09.06.12

I think it is all about moderation and balance. They get electronics in school now and it’s not good to encourage a lot of electronic games but a lot are good especially when moderated. x

I believe age has a lot to do with technology use in our families. How we use and allow screens to be used with our under 5 children will have an impact on their development. There are choices we make for the little ones all the time and this should be on the list.

We as parents should be active in monitoring, choosing etc. I wrote about our media diet recently and the conversation alone was worth it with my spouse as usually there is a difference that’s worth exploring.

The boy/girl mix in the house is also a consideration as they are likely ( I know not every child) to follow a pattern. The exciting world of brain research is throwing up things about our plastic brains and boys that we didn’t know 10-20 yrs ago. Boys especially seem to be fairing worse. I’ve enjoyed reading- Gurian and Sax to give me a less anecdotal view of boys and a perspective on boy development.

Like many things in the home- media use tends to evolve with the kids leading the way and parents often catching up and feeling well- I guess they should or everyone else is doing it, as reasons for doing things.

Deciding to do it is different and clearly many of the commentators here suggest they actively think through their media choices, but others don’t.

Regularly reviewing our children’s age, stage and situation helps keep the moderation in check. It’s not about equal amounts of screen time, which the moderation mantra can sometimes suggest but working out our family values and aligning what we do with that. ( In all areas)

It’s also easier to talk about media use and it be a regular feature in our homes now before it becomes a battle ground. Lastly, what we do says a lot for they will do. Monkey see Monkey do.

HonestMum | 09.06.12

I agree with the above comments, moderation is the way forward-new technology offers so much to our children but without those feral runs through forests and climbing trees, there is no real life experience to apply to the worlds created in those computer screens!

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