Technology is so ever present in our everyday lives that it’s beginning to make its way into the lives of young children.
New technologies are even making their way into elementary schools and preschools to help children learn. Products like “Baby Einstein” offer apps and ipod cases targeted at children as young as 12 months old.
In older children and teenagers, video game consoles and cellphones are the top desired toys and gifts.
Many parents find it unavoidable to introduce their children to technology, but it’s important to know that all this time spent on screens doesn’t do them any good.
Why Children Shouldn’t Have Handheld Devices
Here are just a few reasons why young children should be kept away from screens.
1. Brain Growth
A child’s brain triples in size within the first few years of life and continues to grow rapidly until the age of 21 (1). Exposure to technology during this time can have irreversible effect on brain development.
Early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli or lack thereof.
Stimulation for a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies has shown to be associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate.
“Whether its mobile phones, game consoles, TVs or laptops, advances in technology mean children are exposed to screens for longer amounts of time than ever before,” Prof Mitch Blair told the Guardian.
“We are becoming increasingly concerned, as are pediatricians in several other countries, as to how this affects rapidly developing brains in children and young people.” (2)
These concerns are so great that the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children age 2 and under should not be exposed to media and technological devices, citing the specific health concerns further down this list (3).
2. Developmental Delay
Children exposed to television and videos have demonstrated language delays in multiple studies (3). Technology can be so overwhelming for young children that they begin to lose interest in the world outside the screen and miss out on important social interactions.
As of 2011, the CDC reported that about 1 in 6 U.S. children are diagnosed with a developmental disability, with a large majority suffering from autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (4). These numbers have increased by 17% since 1997.
3. Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. As it stands, one third of Americans are obese or overweight (5). Obesity increases risk of stroke, heart attack and diabetes (6).
Health specialists fear that the condition may lead to a much shorter lifespan in children and adults alike.
North American teenagers spend nearly eight hours a day in front of a screen outside of school hours (2). This sedentary lifestyle is believed to be linked to high obesity rates in children (7).
4. Sleep Deprivation
Studies suggest that time spent in front of a computer, television or cellphone int the evening can affect sleep quality in children and adults.
This can results in bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety and nightmares (8). Children who sleep with technological devices in their room also tend to use these devices late into the night, making them even more sleep deprived.
5. Mental Illness
Overuse of technology has been linked to depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, attention deficit, autism, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and problematic child behavior (9).
Large amounts of time spent in front of a screen may also contribute to a detachment from reality, furthering mental health risks.
Psychology today suggests that depriving children of opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision, prevents them from learning important skills needed to stay in control of their own lives. (10)