Recently, I read an article where it was recommended that handheld devices such as smart phones or tablets should be banned for use by children.

This article made some salient points such as:

  • Sitting and playing games on handheld devices increases the possibility of delayed development. Moving around has been found to enhance learning and physical development in children. Some kids get up in the morning, sit and watch television then switch to a handheld device such as a smart phone or tablet and continue hours and hours of sedentary behaviour – never really moving from the spot they first sit.
  • Studies have found that the use of television and video games by children are associated with a rise in obesity levels. Lack of physical movement is one of the reasons that 21st Century children are more overweight than previous generations and thus have a greater chance of developing diseases such as diabetes and other illnesses such as heart attacks and strokes. It is thought that, for the first time and largely due to obesity, some of the children born today will not outlive their parents.
  • Children who spend time on handheld devices often become sleep deprived and their school work and grades slip. As anyone with a mobile phone who doesn’t turn off the sound or incoming notifications at night knows, even an incoming message sound in the middle of the night can wake you thus interrupting the solid sleep you need.
  • There seems to be an increased problem of aggressive behaviour in the real world in part, many believe, because of the nature of games played in cyberspace. A game played online where over the top violence is the norm does not allow the children playing these games to fully understand the real time consequences of such violent and disrespectful behaviour.
  • As more and more parents become addicted to technology themselves, they detach from their children thereby leaving the children spending more time on their own – almost being babysat by handheld devices and televisions. There are many studies which show that kids are exhibiting addictive tendencies to electronic equipment, and that this addictive behaviour is happening to younger and younger children.
  • Despite the huge amount of information available online, it is thought that technology overuse actually contributes to children being unable to focus on a given subject and learn as they have in the past.  The huge amount of high speed media content bombarding our kids could mean that children can’t pay attention for any decent length of time thereby compromising their ability to learn properly.

While I certainly agree with much of what I have relayed in the above points, I also believe that we should be teaching our children how to regulate themselves in regards to their time spent online. We do not want to be constantly watching and nagging at them – we need to take the time to teach them the consequences of all of their actions and their use of digital and mobile media is just one more area we need to educate them about.

As a parent or grandparent, you should do your homework and find out more about the issues I have raised above. Discuss these things with your children (and grandchildren) and help them see the consequences of their actions (or inactions as it were).

Even though I did not have a mobile phone when I was growing up and was not in constant communication with my parents and friends, I can see merit in having this technology available today. I think that if I lead by example in turning my phone off at dinner time, for example, and engaging in face to face time with my family, I will be actively teaching them that this kind of interaction is an opportunity not to be missed.

If you want to encourage your kids to get outside and play then why not get outside and play with them? Again, lead by example. Our children do learn by watching and listening to us so merely telling them to put down their cool technology and go and climb a tree won’t work unless you get out there and get involved too (you may not be up to climbing the tree but you certainly can cheer them on!)

Conversely, there are often times where we actively want our kids to be safely occupied while we are doing things such as making dinner or attending to the needs of others in our family (especially true of single parent families). I am sure many of you have turned on the television at such times, or handed over your iPhone, so you could focus on what you needed to without worrying about whether your now technologically babysat child was safe. It is important that we do not overuse technology for reasons like this – there is a time and a place and we, as adults, need to educate and set this example for our charges.

Another thing I would suggest is to take the time to sit with your child or grandchild and allow them to show you the sites they visit on the internet or the games they like to play on their handheld devices. This way you are taking an active interest in them and are able to see firsthand their daily activities which are helping to mold them (whether you like it or not). Showing real interest is always a positive interaction with anyone in your life – we all enjoy the full attention of someone we love and care about.

Why not teach your grandkids about the things you like? Why not do some hands on stuff like cooking some healthy food with them? They can do the online research and find a recipe that uses the ingredients you already have in your cupboard – this allows them to show off their technological knowhow on the net (did you know there are apps and websites that allow you to put in the ingredients you have on hand and, as if by magic, ideas and recipes needing those ingredients appear?! Pretty cool I think) You can then use your hands-on knowledge to create a masterpiece that you all can enjoy . . .

Our kids are growing up with a huge range of technology and, no doubt, the use of some of it will have consequences we have not even thought of. Let’s use our age and life experience to help find ways to have this technology enhance our lives together.

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