Thursday, 2 March 2017

Technology and Our Kids

With most people plugged in all the time, I often wonder what effect technology is having on our kids. Some say technology is another helpful learning tool that is making our kids smarter and some say it is having no significant effect at all. Still, others propose that technology use is encouraging social isolation, increasing attentional problems, encouraging unhealthy habits, and ultimately changing our culture and the way humans interact. While there isn't a causal relationship between technology use and human development, I do think some of the correlations are strong enough to encourage you to limit your children's screen time.

Is television really that harmful to kids? Depending on the show and duration of watching, yes. Researchers have found that exposure to programs with fast edits and scene cuts that flash unrealistically across the screen are associated with the development of attentional problems in kids. As the brain becomes overwhelmed with changing stimuli, it stops attending to any one thing and starts zoning out. Too much exposure to these frenetic programs gives the brain more practice passively accepting information without deeply processing it. However, not all programs are bad. Kids who watch slow paced television programs like Sesame Street are not as likely to develop attentional problems as kids who watch shows like The Power Puff Girls or Johnny Neutron. Educational shows are slow paced with fewer stimuli on the screen which gives children the opportunity to practice attending to information. Children can then practice making connections between new and past knowledge, manipulating information in working memory, and problem solving. Conclusively, a good rule of thumb is to limit television watching to an hour to two hours a day, and keep an eye out for a glossy-eyed transfixed gaze on your child's face. This is a sure sign that his or her brain has stopped focusing and it is definitely time to shut off the tube so that he can start thinking, creating, and making sense out of things again (all actions that grow rather than pacify the brain).