Technology and Kids

A state of insufficiency

We all know that technology has become an increasing part of our everyday lives across all generations – and none more so than children.

In fact, Australian children as young as four and five years old are spending 2.2 hours each week day watching screens. Those numbers increase to 3.3 hours by age 12 and 13 and longer on weekends.

Effects of technology are long and varied

The long and varied list of the effects of technology include online addiction, access to inappropriate content, reduced physical activity, security, hacking, online predators, sleep difficulties and family conflict.

Amongst the problems cited above, technology can affect family wellbeing and harmony.

Television has been around since 1954 and in Australia since 1956. Back then those who were fortunate enough to have one often watched television as a whole family activity. But times have changed.

New technology offers children independence from their parents’ involvement in their social lives with social networking and messaging sites. Parents see it as a loss of connection – but it is not all the children’s fault.

Parents can be just as much consumed by technology as their offspring. In fact, if you have an iPhone, check out your daily and weekly screen time usage. It is alarming. As adults, we typically use our smartphones not just for communication but as an ‘escape’ to the online world of social media – seeing what others are doing, browsing and even reading books.

Most of us have our work and personal life all in one phone. That ‘ping’ we hear during family dinner time or even when we sleep may be an email from the office or calendar notification of some sort!

Children are born to learn

Children are born to learn, to socialise. We have known for decades that without social interaction and relationships, we are denied connection and bonds – a core part of being human – as explained in Maslow’s theory of a human’s basic needs.

Modern family life often consists of TV dinners and TV (or iPad) baby sitters which seem to be the way of life now. Yet we have all heard about the numerous studies and warnings on how harmful these are for our society and the impact this will have in generations to come. We are already seeing the scary evidence.

Effects on children’s learning

A former teacher and education and technology researcher, Kristy Goodwin, studied the effect of technology on children’s learning which was highlighted in an SBS Insights segment.

Although there are benefits to using devices to create digital content for storytelling, movie making, creating animations or coding, there are also many complaints.

Screen time causes myopia – a condition of the eye where light focuses in front of the retina instead of on the surface, resulting in blurred vision.

The research showed that the premature introduction of screens, before the eyes have time to develop, was a cause of the condition. Another common complaint when it comes to kids and technology is the way screens can captivate and hijack their attention. There are two main reasons why we all find it so hard to digitally disconnect.

The state of insufficiency

1. The brain releases neurotransmitter dopamine. Looking at social media will give our brain dopamine hits. Dopamine is associated with the pleasure system of the brain. This in turn motivates us to do, or continue to do, certain activities.

2. When we’re online, particularly on our phones, Goodwin says “…we enter something called the state of insufficiency. We never, ever feel done. We never, ever feel complete.”

We have all seen the trance like looks on children’s faces – the tantrums and those videos that have gone viral on social media showing children ‘losing the plot’ and having demonic screaming meltdowns due to the lack or removal of access to Wifi or their computer games.

Technology is here to stay. Be proactive and control it. Don’t fear it. Set boundaries, install parental controls and educate your children on the dangers of technology and appropriate information.

Consider how the online world is affecting the way we use our finances and the important lessons our children are missing out on as we move towards a cashless society.