- Kanika Arora
TECHNOLOGY AND CHILDREN
Digital technology has accelerated the pace of life around us. Dependency on digital gadgets and devices has increased immensely in a way that everything seems impossible without them. Digital advancements have impacted a child’s life equally. Today, it is very common to see a toddler using a smartphone or a tablet with ease. Research shows that a child nowadays spends 8 hours approximately in a day looking at electronic screens.
In earlier times, technology only meant desk computers and basic mobile phones. In contrast, presently technology comprises of smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, video games, child-friendly laptops, interactive educational toys and several other tech-centric devices. To keep up with rapid changes in digital technologies, it is needful for children to become tech-friendly but to what extent? How much technology is enough for children?
Across nations nearly 85% of the parents allow their children to use technology without a hitch. The magnitude of information kids can now get at their fingertips is incredible. It is true that usage of technology has many advantages yet some boundaries should be set.
The onus falls on parents and caregivers to protect children from the ill effects of excessive use of technology. Here are a few parameters on how to encourage healthy use of technology:
1) PARENTAL CONTROLS
Parental controls are settings on a device which allows parents to restrict the access to harmful content that might affect a child’s brain and overall development. These features block unwanted pop-up screens, bogus advertisements, malware and various links to meaningless and age-inappropriate sites.
2) MODERATION OF SCREEN TIME
Screen time is the time a child spends onscreen. It is recommended by the American Academy of Paediatrics to set a limit to recreational screen time for children. A pre-schooler should not spend more than an hour daily in front of a screen. The old proverb “Excess of everything is bad” works as a guide to make children practice moderation. Setting limitations on screen time are helpful in preventing health complications in children such as eyesight issues, obesity, etc.
3) CONTENT WATCH
The term content watch means parents keeping an eye on the content a child sees onscreen. Assessment of the content helps in guiding children regarding issues like cyberbullying and online emotional abuse. A child’s online safety is of utmost importance. A parent’s job is to mitigate the harm and reap the benefits from the information the technology has to offer.
4) HOUSEHOLD RULES
Every household should have rules on “tech-free time”. It’s the time away from television screens, smartphones, gaming consoles and other tech-centric devices. These rules should be applied to the entire family including children. To spend a few hours together as a family in a ‘device-free zone’ whether it’s a dinner table or a bedroom is an alternative to regulate the use of technology.
5) CONTINUATION OF OTHER NON-DIGITAL ACTIVITIES
Non-digital activities may include board games, reading a book, playing with toys, visits to parks, colouring, etc. Technology does play a major role in a child’s upbringing these days but it shouldn’t put a stop on other recreational activities. Children who engage in sports and other activities develop many qualities like team spirit, self-esteem and making new friends. A child’s lifestyle should not become sedentary as early as toddlerhood by being digitally dependent.
As long as a child is not addicted and functions normally without technology, there will be no negative impact on his/her growth and development. If you spot a toddler spending an evening at home sitting on a comfortable chair/bean bag watching cartoons or nursery rhymes onscreen, there is nothing to worry about. After all, a child also needs some time off.