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Smart Tech and Child Wellness
2017-07-06 16:14:38
Khristian Maclang

Parenting is a different thing than it used to be as a result of smartphones and tablets, and a poll recently published data that outlines the extent to which this is true.

Photo source: NadineDoerle via Pixabay

The commonplace way to raise children in the information age involves all sorts of technology, chiefly smartphones and tablets.

Even before children are old enough to have their own phone service, many parents buy them these devices as a means of entertainment when they need to be able to focus on something else.

Other parents tend to simply hand their own devices to their children when they need a moment to cook, clean, do dishes or anything else along those lines.

Even in the car on the way to school, work, church or a friend’s house, parents of the information age do the same thing in some cases simply as a means of keeping their child from being too unruly during the drive.

These are the kinds of behaviors that contributed to the findings that most concern Dr.Anthea Rhodes.

She’s a pediatrician and the director of the Australian Child Health Poll, and she described the knowledge of just how many children spend copious amounts of time on these devices as a “worrying” trend.

The most recent Australian Child Health Poll shows that as much as two thirds of primary school students and a third of preschoolers have their own tablets or smartphones, and it also reveals that half of them use these devices without any form of supervision, parental or otherwise.

Rhodes said evidence for the idea that this technology has any positive benefits for the maturation and psychological development of toddlers is in very short supply whereas there remains an abundance of evidence to support the notion of health problems being a natural consequence of excessive use.

“Particularly with sleep difficulties, problems related to unhealthy weight gain and then difficulties with social and emotional wellbeing,” said Rhodes.

Another of the most crucial conclusions drawn from the poll was that nearly 50 percent of children use HUD (heads-up display) devices at bedtime on a regular basis.

A quarter of them report trouble getting to sleep as a result.

Two thirds of the families included in the poll correlated this level of screen time for their children with family conflict of one kind or another, and 85 percent of the parents conceded that these devices were mostly a crutch to help them get things done while children could be preoccupied with games and apps.

The poll pointed out a connection between children’s and parents’ usages as well.

“Basically, a parent who has high levels of screen use is more likely to have a child with high levels of use,” Rhodes explained.

“Three-quarters of parents of children under six also said they do not put time limits on screen use.”

This lack of time constraints concerns Rhodes because of the negative effects resulting from overuse and the lack of a sense of responsibility it can potentially foster in some children of whom nothing is expected other than entertainment.

Teenagers are, by far, the demographic most immersed in this technology according to the national poll.

They spend on average as much as 44 hours a week on these devices, which is more time spent than hours worked on average for full-time jobs.

Teenagers tend to be drawn further into the technology by social media and streaming media such as Snapchat and Hulu respectively.

Teenagers also proved more likely according to the poll to report social media as a source of bullying.

It can sometimes begin in the form of what Internet lingo dubs, trolling, which simply refers to deliberately provocative messaging online with the intent of inciting anger or evoking an impetuous response.

It has also been reportedly used to shame people.

Rhodes, working as a pediatrician for the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, said she sees more and more negative results from the excess of HUD and media use on the parts of children.

Rhodes explained that face-to-face social contact and physical playtime is vital for the development of young bodies and brains.

“Every hour a child spends engaged by themselves on a device like that is an hour they’re not doing something like being physically active or having face-to-face play and social interaction.”

Around the world, more and more studies related to the effects of smartphone and tablet technology are being conducted and published because many people can plainly see the potential detriment it poses to the wellbeing of their children.

For 85 percent of parents involved in the Australian Child Health Poll to admit that they give their children these devices as a way to occupy them while they get something else done speaks to prevalence and common knowledge of the problem.

It suggests, in fact, that this has become the new normal—status quo, so to speak.

In many cases, children show signs of being able to navigate these devices from their home screens to get to whatever app they want with astounding proficiency at incredibly young ages.

This often leads parents to believe that their children are developing intellectually, but Rhodes points out that there remains little evidence to measure or quantify these cognitive or behavioral benefits while evidence to the contrary is still abundant.


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