Research results are extremely varied on this topic, and complete condemnation is unfounded. There are a wide variety of factors and silver linings accompanying this issue; thus, we have compiled the pros and cons of the top online activities (across various age groups) in the table below:
By age 4, many children already own their own mobile device. Technology is so heavily integrated into the development of today’s youth that scientists find it necessary to examine its impact on child behavior. This interest took hold in the 1980s as more children started spending their time indoors watching television, rather than playing outside. Now, with increasing accessibility to handheld portable devices (in a recent American Academy of Pediatrics study, 96.6% of young children had access to a mobile device in an urban, low-income minority community), children are spending 5-10 hours per day in front of a screen– a fact that many adults believe is detrimental, and the cause of increasing rates in physical, psychological, and behavior disorders.
Research (especially from 2010-2013) has linked rising numbers of childhood obesity, disrupted sleep patterns, and under-developed motor/cognitive function to device usage. However, cases have been made for both sides of this debate in more recent years. For example, a study in Computers in Human Behavior reported that children who went five days without screen exposure exhibited increased sensitivity to and comprehension of nonverbal emotional cues. In contrast, other researchers propose recreational technology as an avenue for developing emotional literacy skills earlier in life, and more acutely. Children take the fictional beings (protagonists, villains, heroes, friends, etc.) from their shows/video games and are able to synthesize complex characters in their own storytelling from the various models of human interaction they are exposed to. In addition, learning through watching TV shows like Sesame Street and playing educational computer games are believed to improve a child’s listening comprehension and vocabulary.
Essentially, moderation is the crux of the matter! Scientists warn against excessive screen time exposure, which a little something called balance can easily solve. Be sure your child’s time spent in front of their Chromebook, iPad, or TV is distributed with educational shows/games – and equally matched with time spent playing outside, interacting with peers, etc. Surveys show that parental controls and web filtering are commonly underutilized; these features can help keep your child safe online, as well as monitor and limit device usage.
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