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Effect of Technology on Young Children

Incessant exposure to "all day TV," violent video games, instant messaging, and the always accessible cell phone interferes with the development of the psychological traits known to be essential to positive outcomes for children, according to Leah Klungness, Ph.D., psychologist in private practice and co-author of The Complete Single Mother.

As technology becomes a large part of many consumers in everyday lives, the risk of overexposure to new advances in technology grows for people of all ages. Children, however, may be especially at risk of becoming too dependent on devices and outlets such as television sets, cell phones, music players, video games and the internet. Technological efficiency does not in itself enrich the human dimensions nor does it lead to expanded consciousness.

“In the past, we only had to be concerned about too much TV exposure. Now we have video games, computers and cell phones. It is overwhelming for young children and creates patterns of behaviors similar to addiction patterns," said Mali Mann, M.D., adjunct clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford University's School of Medicine.
Technology access has been linked to improved reading skills, but some believe that too much technology can impose dangers on today's youth -- including vision impairment, technology addiction and sexual solicitation. To be sure, technology opens the doors to a world that includes much more than convenience, knowledge and entertainment.

It has been found that children are affected at any age, but young children are most vulnerable to the effects of media violence. Young children are more easily impressionable; they have a harder time distinguishing between fantasy and reality and cannot easily discern motives for violence. Their brains get used to too much auditory and visual stimulation and in the absence of these stimuli, they do not know what to do with themselves. They get anxious, restless, bored and aggressive. Children who are heavily involved with technology do not develop the social skills necessary to become functional adults, or to live a happy life.

Researchers are conducting numerous studies to measure how much children of all ages use technology and to evaluate its impact. The responses are mixed -- and telling.

Computers:

Many researchers do not recommend that children under 3 years old use computers as they simply do not match their learning style. Children younger than 3 learn through their bodies: their eyes, ears, mouths, hands, and legs. Computers can be used in developmentally appropriate ways beneficial to children and also can be misused, just as any tool can. Developmentally appropriate software offers opportunities for collaborative play, learning, and creation. Some reports have condemned the use of computers in schools. Others have endorsed Internet use in the classroom. Whether or not they are exposed to technology in the classroom, kids often have bedrooms that are media centers, according to a Knowledge Networks/SRI study. It reveals that nearly two-thirds of children have a television in their room, while 17 percent have their own computer and 35 percent have a video game system. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 31 percent of children age three and under are already using computers. Sixteen percent use them several times a week, 21 percent can point and click with a mouse by themselves, and 11 percent can turn on the computer without assistance. What's more, a third of children -- many as young as 11 years old -- use blogs and social networking sites at least two or three times a week. Yet two-thirds of parents don't even know what a blog is, according to a report by NCH Children's Charities and Tesco Telecoms. The report reveals an alarming gap in knowledge between parents and their children when it comes to technology, breeding concern that children may be at risk of exposure to sexual predation and other dangers.

Television:

Television is most powerful medium of entertainment in 21st century but it is also the most educative medium in a restricted sense. Children's television viewing has been of concern to parents, educators, and health care providers for almost as long as the medium itself has been in existence. Although most studies have focused on children's exposure to potentially deleterious content, such as violence, , or food advertising. Family is the most important influence in a child's life, but television is not far behind. Television can inform, entertain and teach us. However, some of what TV teaches may not be what you want your child to learn. TV programs and commercials often show violence, alcohol or drug use and sexual content that are not suitable for children or teenagers. Studies show that TV viewing may lead to more aggressive behavior, less physical activity, altered body image, and increased use of drugs and alcohol. By knowing how television affects your children and by setting limits, you can help make your child's TV-watching experience less harmful, but still enjoyable. The amount of time children spend in front of the screen is an important predictor of cognitive, behavioral, and physical outcomes in children, including school performance, bullying, attention, and weight status.

The key to managing kids' technology use is to establish clear 'tech-free' zones. This means recognizing times when the present moment is the priority and technology is given a secondary role. Kids need to learn that there are times when paying attention to those around you is of primary importance, no matter what type of urgent phone calls or instant messages might be coming their way.

So, it can be concluded from the findings of the study that informal factors like family environment, family structure and technological exposure have a vital role to play in determining a child’s behavior. Therefore, it is important for the parents to arrange conducive family environment and to monitor their children's technological exposure from early years. That will certainly help in conditioning and shaping children’s behavior in right direction.
Vikas Agarwal
What about kids' addiction to downloading and playing games on their parents' smartphones...?
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