In the midst of this crazy year, many parts of “real” life have had to shift online. It is incredible that technology has advanced so much that not even a global pandemic can stop the world in its tracks! While this year has highlighted the many wonderful things technology brings to the table, it has also revealed negative aspects of spending increasing amounts of time using technology. We’ve seen that most adults have trouble staying off of social media, video games, etc. If adults cannot help becoming addicted to technology, how much harder is it for children who might not yet know how to control their actions!
While technology is a very useful tool, it can be dangerous for the development of children academically, socially, and spiritually. There are only two main industries that call their customers “users”: the illegal drug industry and the technology industry. This label (“users”) is definitely not an accident. The internet and technology as a whole are very easy to become addicted to. When anything completely takes over a person’s life, like technology often does, the results can be very detrimental to their well-being, especially if that person is a child. Hundreds, if not thousands, of peer reviewed research articles comment on the negative effects of children using technology in their formative years to adulthood (0-18). Children are the most easily susceptible to becoming addicted to technology and can be sucked in by its luster and charms. With its constant bombardment of notifications and achievements, the use of technology actually encourages and enables attention deficits and hyperactivity in these children. It has been proven that if children consistently use technology in their formative years, their attention span will decrease, their creative abilities will be limited, and their social awareness will be inhibited.
Those who have impairments such as ADHD are at a much higher risk of becoming addicted to technology. The heavy use of technology, which is “only” a few hours a day, has been strongly correlated with heightened levels of depression (75% of people studied), anxiety (57%), symptoms of ADHD (100%), obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms (60%), and increased hostility and aggression (66%). Additionally, when a child suffers from any one of these ailments, the heavy use of technology can dramatically increase its severity. If a child has ADHD, the vibration of a phone or watch can become an additional distraction from their work. Children who use technology are having their brains trained to get notifications regularly, change what they are doing rapidly, and not be able to focus for nearly as long. Heavy use of technology has already had dramatic effects on people’s ability to focus: the average human attention span has actually gone below the attention span of a goldfish in the past ten years.
However, there is good news! The brain is malleable, so it can be reprogrammed and adjusted. One of the very best things that a child can do for their verbal skills, manipulative skills, judgment and reasoning, and their creative, social, and problem-solving intelligences is play. True free play, where children are creating their own rules and story lines, expands their brain in a much more positive way than technology does. Creating something, painting, drawing, building, doing puzzles, reading a book, playing a board or card game, and other fun activities can help children learn how to properly behave, increase their attention span, and benefit their mental health.
While technology does not (and frankly cannot) be completely removed from children’s lives, there should be limitations to its use. The simple act of reducing a child’s screen time to one hour a day is likely to drastically change his or her behavior and mindset. At first, this change might have side effects like a real drug withdrawal: millions of people just in the United States are addicted to technology. Stay strong, though, as children should be given every possible tool to become successful. Success is not only defined by what they can do but by the process they utilize to get to their end goal. Working together to limit technology will help our children’s minds become sharper, equipping them to improvise, adapt, and overcome anything life throws their way.
Train up a child in the way they should go,
[a]And when they are old they will not depart from it.
Written by: Addison Fraser