Technology—it is everywhere!

Recently, I was informed that someone would be gifting my soon to be five year old with an Xbox. My gut reaction was: Sure, you can give it to him, but I won’t let him use it!

I thought about it throughout the day, and I realized that I may have had a knee-jerk reaction. My soon to be five year old was not a baby anymore, I may need to loosen my grip on my anti-technology/screen time obsession. Don’t get me wrong, we allow him to watch TV. But, we have limited it substantially. Until he was well into his second year, we didn’t allow him to watch TV or play with our phones. Sometime in his second year, we allowed him to watch a Leap Frog video (about 45 minutes), once a day. It was educational in nature, and I watched it with him, pausing the video anytime it seemed appropriate for “interaction.” You know when a character asks the audience a question? That is when I would pause it, and encourage a response.

At three years old, we allowed SuperWhy into the mix and again, we would pause the show to allow him the chance to find the letter, or make the letter sound. At four years old, a few more shows have made the “allowable” watch list, maybe not as educational as I would like, but hey, you got to pick your battles! There is still a limit of one show a day. I can attest to the negative side effect of having a little one watch any show. It is almost always difficult to have him shut it off, he is unsettled and cranky more often than not when the show ends, and always wants more. So why on earth would I want him to have yet another thing to distract him?

But, I thought I should do a little research. So I did. By no means is the following information all or nothing. I am no expert at this, nor is there a specific straight forward answer. Each child is different, each family is different, and you need to find what works for you. I did however find some interesting information. I have attached the links to the articles I am referencing if you would like to read more.

Jim Taylor, PhD, wrote an article about how technology is changing the way children think and focus. In it, he discusses that technology usage in children absolutely changes the way the brain is wired—but it may not be all bad. The world is changing… has already changed. There is a certain amount of adaptability that needs to take place to continue to succeed in the world. There is plenty of research that supports zero to limited technology use by young children. The younger they are, the more beneficial human interaction is for them. As they grow, technology can be helpful in building reaction times, visual-spatial capabilities, attentional abilities and the ability to identify details within information. Reversely, screen time, and social media in particular can lead to social-emotional issues such as anxiety and depression. Dr. Taylor ends the article by saying that too much screen time without the offset of other activities will reduce the ability of the child to thrive in the world.

Not surprising, during my research one specific word kept coming up that terrifies me: addiction. Screen time, and social media applications, are addictive to children and young adults. This article is not scientifically based but, nevertheless, I found it very interesting that leaders of some of the most tech savvy companies are limiting or banning the use of all screens for their own children. 

So, what is appropriate for a five year old (or any age for that matter)? I haven’t really found any hard and fast rules on that. The closest I have come is this article from Mayo Clinic. It provides some fairly clear suggestions for young children, as well as how to utilize screens and media for the adolescent children.

Children emulate what they see. So, as adults, we need to provide them with the correct example and appropriate use of technology. When is it ok to be on our phones? For how long can we scroll through Facebook, or play Xbox? How do we treat people online? How do we respond when others treat us poorly? All of these things matter to the future development of our children, whether they realize it or not. Good luck parents, I know I will need it to do better myself!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.