Children and Technology – Why be Concerned
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Media technology is here to stay and has become a permanent part of our lives. But there is great concern about how it may be affecting our children. I believe we can learn to embrace its advantages, reduce its adverse effects and raise children who can still relate heart to heart with people, appreciate and participate in the beauty and wonders of nature and grow up to be well rounded, healthy, caring and compassionate adults. The challenge for parents is to understand the benefits and pitfalls of children’s technology use and to help their children create balance in their lives.
Why should we be concerned?
The amount of time children spend using media technology, including computers, cell phones, video games and MP3 players among others, is setting off alarms. The fear is not only that this technology is replacing physical and imaginative play, but that it also may be diminishing development of social skills, heart connection and empathy for others.
Children and teens between ages eight and 18 spend an average of seven hours and 38 minutes daily playing video games, going online and watching TV, and most have no household rules governing how much time they’re allowed to spend doing these things, according to the 2010 study, “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds,” conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Add to that the time spent eating, sleeping and attending school during the week, and little time is left for anything else such as playing outside or at the playground with other children, participating in athletics, socializing with friends and family or engaging in afterschool and weekend activities.
Studies over the past decade have concluded that a large number of adolescents and teens today are having difficulty identifying emotions in people, thus creating an inability to feel empathy toward others who may be feeling pain, sorrow, anger and other emotions. There is concern that excessive viewing of real or contrived violence online and/or playing video games that are violent or contain other age-inappropriate content could be numbing the sensitivities of young people, immunizing them from experiencing compassion and caring for others.
I strongly encourage parents and adults to closely monitor children’s media technology habits and the time they spend with media, beginning at an early age and continuing through adolescence and the teen years. It’s important to help children to create a balance between their relationship with technology and activities that nurture their social, emotional and physical skills.
Why should we be encouraged?
My philosophy is that technology can also play a role in helping children develop socially and emotionally, when used in balance. Media has helped children care about what is happening on the other side of the world, giving them access to people of different cultures and lifestyles in a click.
Technology is creating common platforms of socialization, exchange of information leading to more understanding and connectedness to the greater whole. Online polls allow teens to participate in social issues. Through blogging, many youths feel they have a voice on different social issues, allowing expression of their perspectives and learning about other people’s perspectives as well. Many are getting involved in online social causes and movements happening worldwide, from saving endangered species to raising money for the homeless.
Video games also offer ways for kids to collaborate, take turns and learn basic principles of teamwork and sharing, while increasing logical thinking, grasping the interrelationship of various inputs and developing motor skills and hand-eye coordination due to movements needed to effectively navigate a mouse or play a video game. New software being designed specifically for classrooms promises to be a remarkable tool for developmental learning and creativity.
Text messaging can also be a developmental tool. Researchers from Coventry University studied 88 children aged between 10 and 12 to understand the impact of text messaging on their language skills. They found that the use of “textisms” could be having a positive impact on reading development and a positive effect on the way children interact with language, rather than harming literacy.
There is also media technology available today designed to significantly enhance social and emotional learning, which is critical to the development and future success of children. HeartMath developed a scientifically validated hardware/software system (emWave®) that teaches children emotion-balancing and coherence skills that can improve their academic performance, relationships with family and friends, heart intelligence and empathy, and even their ability to make wiser choices in their lives.
The technology world is a place for parents and grandparents to interact and communicate with children, even though the learning curve can be a challenge for many of us. It’s important to enter into the world where our children are increasingly spending more and more time. By learning to navigate that world with them, we can better guide them on how to manage themselves and their time within it.
As mindfulness trainer Maya Talisman Frost told TechNewsWorld: “The key to managing kids’ technology use is to establish clear ‘tech-free’ zones,” she explained. “This means recognizing times when the present moment is the priority and technology is given a secondary role. Kids need to learn that there are times when paying attention to those around you is of primary importance, no matter what type of urgent phone calls or instant messages might be coming their way.”
How do you feel about children using technology, and do you have any guidelines with how and when your children use technology?
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A free special parenting webinar
The nonprofit Institute of HeartMath is offering a free webinar for parents. Sign up for or learn more about “The Power of Self-Care in Parenting: A Gift to Your Entire Family Webinar” with parenting experts and author Cathy Cassani Adams, radio host Todd Adams and HeartMath Education Specialist Jeff Goelitz. This free live webinar, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday, Oct. 29, will address a variety of parents’ unique needs.
When you register for the webinar, you will be automatically entered into a random drawing. Cathy Adams will give away three signed copies of each of her books during this webinar: “The Self-Aware Parent: 19 Lessons for Growing with Your Children” and “The Self-Aware Parent Two.” Jeff Goelitz will give away three of IHM’s Wild Ride to the Heart Game. Winners will be announced on Zen Parenting Facebook and HeartMath My kids! Facebook. Don’t forget to like these Facebook pages.
You may ask them any question you have about how parents can help guide their children in the use of technology.