Our love of electronic gadgetry is universal, potentially addictive, and growing by the day. One look at the statistics tells you all you need to know:
· Facebook boasts more than 750 million uses.
· 81% of surveyed women Facebook regularly with 46% checking in 3 or more times a day.
· 12 million iPads have been sold.
· More than 130 million iBooks have been downloaded in little over a year.
· In 2010, approximately 302.6 million smartphones were sold.
· 35% of U.S. adults now own a smartphone and 2/3 of them sleep with theirs next to their bed.
Speaking of smartphones, they have it all—camera, Internet, watch, music–and owners are hooked. As KYW’s Stephanie Stahl put it: “People can now live almost completely on their phone.” Convenient, engaging, and distracting all at once.
Unfortunately, says addiction expert Dr. Michael Dow, “The more connected we are, the less we’re connecting.” And, as if that’s not bad enough, comes news that “Smartphone withdrawal can cause physical symptoms like anxiety, insomnia and even depression.”
And when it comes to kids, a survey of 1,038 women—90% of them with children under ten—found that . . .
· 33% of the 2-year-olds of GenY moms are already comfortable using smartphones, laptops, and even digital cameras.
· Almost 30% of 2-year-olds of GenX moms have used a laptop; 18% are familiar with digital cameras, and 20% with a smartphone.
Meanwhile, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that our 8- to 18-year-olds spend, on average, 7.5 hours a day with digital media. Then there’s the fact that one in six children is failing to read because of texting, emailing, and social networking.
On top of all that comes the PEACH Project study of more than 1,000 10- and 11-year-olds that measured both time in front of a screen and psychological well-being, while also recording sedentary and physical activity. The conclusion: “More than two hours per day of both television viewing and recreational computer use were related to higher psychological difficulty scores, regardless of how much time the children spent on physical activity.”
And now our screen-savvy youngsters have yet one more option: LeapFrog’s new LeapPad. This attempt to compete in the tablet market offers up more than 100 learning games and apps, while also boasting an on-board camera and video recorder—all aimed at children as young as four.
So it goes. You must decide if you’re in favor of all this tech in the hands of your children, but, as you do, keep the facts in mind, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics reminder that one to two hours of screen time is more than enough. Author and pediatric occupational therapist Cris A. Rowan takes it even further saying, “There is absolutely nothing in technology that is developmentally healthy. Any time in front of a device is detrimental to child development.”
As Rowan points out, research now shows causal links between physical, mental, social and academic disorders in children who overuse technology, and, schools, right there along with parents, promote it, such as the Auburn [Maine] School District which now distributes iPads to kindergarteners. Meanwhile, our Montgomery County school districts are spending small fortunes to equip their buildings with laptops and computer labs.
Take, for instance, Souderton’s Franconia Elementary which boasts a brand new computer lab for its youngsters, and the Lower Merion School District which actually gives each of its high schoolers his/her own laptop, thus assuring 24/7 access to the Internet
All for the better, of course, as certainly schools must prepare children to compete in this 21st century and that requires computer literacy. However, on the home front, we parents can and must set limits. That means supervising screen time, getting our kids playing indoors and out, and sending them to bed at a reasonable hour, book in hand and mobile phone left behind on the kitchen counter.
We’ve got to keep an eye on our own tech use, too.