The year 2018 has brought us newer versions of Apple’s famed iPad, the release of the iPhone XS and more children addicted to their screens. How many times have you been eating at a restaurant and noticed a toddler, barely five, gazing into a screen as their parents blindly eat a meal? The new generation of children has found a keen interest in screens and a lack of ability to socially interact with those other than their parents.
The New York Times recently published an article discussing how our children have become increasingly addicted to their phones. The article focuses on the dangers that lie within children spending more time on their screens than partaking in “normal” child-activities. Key mentioned threats to our children include both hindered social skills alongside lack of progression in levels of education.
The article places a spotlight on parents and psychologists who have growing concerns for their children’s, and all children’s, obsession with screen-time. Many parents have discussed how they have attempted to find a happy-medium by creating a “budget” for their children in which they are allotted only a certain amount of hours on their screens per day. On the other hand, more progressive parents have maintained a zero-tolerance policy in which their children are not allowed to have access to any form of technology until they are at least of high school age.
Although both forms of protocol have been proven effective in many households, other parents have noticed that regardless of how much or how little time their child spends on their screen, they are always begging to spend more. The growing addiction that pursues our children has even been noticed by many Silicon Valley executives, including Apple CEO Tim Cook who noted that he would not allow his nephew to be on any social networks.
While there is no doubt that children have been severely affected by their growing dependence on technology, it is also important to note how much time parents spend on their phones. Rather than constantly berating our children for spending too much time on their devices, we need to acknowledge how often adults are distracted by phones. When out in public, one can can hear a parent tell their child “one minute, I am on the phone” countless times. How can parents call their children addicted to their phones, when they are oftentimes overly-dependent as well? Recent studies have shown that toddlers are unable to learn when the flow of a conversation is interrupted by parents picking up their phones and checking text messages. Additionally, children have begun to show more attention-seeking behavior when parents are focused on their screens than the care of their child.
The growing reliance on technology is an epidemic that deeply affects everyone with access to a phone. If anyone wants to make an impactful change in the growing addiction to screentime, put the phone down. Learn to manage time spent on your devices. If children always see the adults around them using phones rather than being socially interactive, they will follow and do the same. Be the role model that your child needs and put the phone down.