The fluid integration of technology into our youth is a topic that continues to fascinate me. My younger sister does not have a phone or computer, yet she spends all of her free time on my parents’ devices. My sister’s excessive use of technology has had a noticeable effect on her character. She has become more passive, unresponsive, and uninterested, as my parents’ previously strong restrictions have become increasingly unenforced. Today, it is very hard to separate oneself completely from technology, but how can one have a healthy relationship with technology without tipping over into the realm of addiction?
“When I was seven, my mother walked in on me watching some old, black and white, educational program in Swedish,” Tara Meehan, mother of three, recalls of her childhood. “It was really dull, but I couldn’t stop watching it.”
According to American Academy of Pediatrics, “today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.” In some households, such as that of Marin mother Nicki Weber, “there are iPads, computers, and phones sitting everywhere.” Weber, mother of two kids aged 10 and seven, believes that children can easily become hooked on riveting devices, especially if there are no restrictions. “When children believe that it’s their right to use technology whenever they want to, you start having problems and seeing the impact that it has on their character,” says Weber.
When I think back to my childhood, my memories are crowded with the outdoor games I played and the adventures I had. Rainy afternoons were alive with the possibility of dress up, furniture forts, and tag with friends. Today, those rainy afternoons are plagued with computer games, Instagram, and Netflix. Kelli Yon, Urban photography teacher, unplugged her daughter’s television when her daughter was two and told her it was broken. Yon’s children go to the Waldorf school, a school which limits the use of technology, focusing on its impact on early childhood development.
Yon thinks that “the whole adventure of childhood has hugely been limited” by technology. If “kids are not spending enough time together,” then we begin to see “social development issues, in terms of ADD, and having trouble connecting with others,” says Yon.
Technology also limits the opportunity for children to daydream and use their creative minds. The Waldorf School advises parents to “let kids be bored,” says Yon, “because when you’re bored you figure out ways to entertain yourself and make the moment interesting.” According PSYBlog “being bored can spur people’s creativity — partly to escape the horrible, frustrated, and meaningless feeling of boredom .” However, seven hours of distraction leaves little time for boredom.
“I fear that creativity initiated through boredom is something we are losing in our next generation of children,” Yon emphasizes.
Today’s world is dominated by technology and it is difficult to completely isolate oneself from it. But how to find a balance between addiction and elimination is the question we are all asking. Yon thinks that the key to children having a relationship with technology without completely removing it from their lives is to “place healthy boundaries on its use, and have conversations about it.”
There are parents who have to manually turn off their children’s computer after a certain amount of time, and there are also parents who place no boundaries on technology, whatsoever. The key, however, is to be involved; to watch movies with your kids, to see their creations, to be hands on, and not just assume that they are fine. Technology use does not need to be totally limited, but it should be age appropriate, and judiciously chosen.