Child Psychology and Digital Technology
"Child Psychology and Digital Technology"
In 2012, Sherry Turkle, an MIT sociologist, presented a TED talk where she emphasized the psychological impact that digital screens are having on us. According to Turkle, these devices which have become a part of our daily lives “do not only change what we do, they change who we are” (italic mine). Many experts agree that digital technology is causing children and adolescents psychological health problems since children are visually connected to their devices for extended hours on a typical day. Digital technology is creating relationship problems for parents, children, and society because we are not developing social interactions which is a fundamental value in our lives. A study conducted by Pew Research Center Internet and Technology found that many parents are worried about digital screens being harmful to their children. Society and especially parents need to learn more about digital technology before it negatively affects children and adolescent's core values.
“ What are the disadvantages of digital technology for children, and how can parents prevent their children from overusing cell phones? ”
Staying connected on a digital screen for a long time is harming children’s psychological development since children are not engaging in physical activities and communicating with other people. In the article “ Parenting Children in the Age of Screens, ” researchers report that seven out of ten parents know that smartphones can damage children’s capability to communicate with others. Sixty-eight percent of parents also believe that digital screens do not let children have healthy relationships or friendships which means that children probably spend more hours on digital screens than interacting with their peers; this decreases children’s personal life experiences. Fifty-four percent of parents perceive that young children who spend time on the digital screen will not succeed in school because they prefer to stay on their devices for long hours than pick up a book to study or do schoolwork. Furthermore, researchers said that parents are equally divided when they talk about how smartphones are deteriorating children's ability to find hobbies, which is the main tool to create good leadership skills as a young adult. I believe that many parents are aware of the psychological problems digital screens can cause, especially in children under the age of twelve. Parents should aim to create healthy experiences with their children such as visiting museums, parks, or restaurants. These unique experiences between parents and children will help children to appreciate those important moments and stay away from screens. Digital technology is slowly being integrated into our children’s lives which is changing their habits and isolating them from the outside world.
“How are digital screens affecting quality time?”
Staying connected as a family has become challenging since devices are taking away personal interactions, especially between parents and children. For example, researchers report that sixty-eight percent of parents admitted that their phones distract them when they are spending quality time with their children. Researchers also discovered a positive correlation between the level of education and distractibility. Parents with higher education are more likely to be distracted by their mobile devices while spending time with their kids compared to parents with some college and high school education (Auxier et al. 55). Digital screens are dominating quality time because both children and parents have their eyes on the digital screens. I think parents need to become more aware of not just how this screen time affects their children, but of what it does to them and their relationship with their children. If parents put their phones away while they are having conversations with their children, it will show their kids that they are involved in their lives.
“What is the appropriate amount of time children should use their devices?”
Selecting a specific amount of time for children to be on their devices is difficult for many parents because children have phones in their pockets all the time. In the article “Is Digital Addiction a Real Threat for Kids?,” Dr. Christakis, who administers the Center for Child Health, Behaviors, and Development at the University of Washington, questions how parents of intermediate schoolers could enforce digital time limits since children check their digital screen many times in a regular day and kids use smartphones to stay connected with friends, play games, and do schoolwork. He thinks parents cannot control their children's phone usage because kids own phones and use it all the time. Dr. Christakis also advises programmers and people who do studies about the impact of digital technology on children and he suggests creating measures or guidelines in which children can put down their phones and find an activity that increases their development. Parents should figure out how much time is appropriate for their children and try to find good ways to enjoy their time together without phones. There are many things that parents can do with their children without a digital screen, they just need to ask their children and organize together to meet their positive goals.
“Why do parents let their children stay on their devices for long hours?”
Parents provide digital devices to their children because they think videos are educational and entertaining. However, these videos are not appropriate for young children because they contain violence and aggressive language. In 2018, James Bridle, an artist and publisher, described a simple video made by a vlogger called “Surprise Egg video,” in which a man takes seven minutes to open a lovely chocolate egg to show a tiny toy. This unimportant video has 8 billion viewers, which surprisingly are young children. Vloggers are people who profit from creating random videos that target young children because parents use smartphones as a replacement for babysitters. He states that when kids are connected to the screen for long hours, it makes it difficult for parents to take digital screens away from them since kids become irritable and misbehave. Bridle explains that because algorithms choose what videos children watch, they are at risk of being exposed to inappropriate and violent videos. As a result, children become afraid of certain places or of the program that they love. He states that even though a digital screen keeps us connected with calls, texts, and emails, these digital screens are making children and us addicted. Parents allow children to use smartphones for long hours because they believe that they will benefit from watching videos. However, when children watch inappropriate videos it can negatively impact their behavior.
“What should parents know before they provide devices to their children?”
Searching for information about digital devices is something that parents should do before they provide a digital screen to their children. In the book The Cyber Effects which investigates the relationship between technology and human behavior, Dr. Mary Aiken, a cyberpsychologist explains that parents who give digital screens to their children think their kids need to be in constant learning otherwise children become bored. What parents do not understand is that when their children are looking at smartphones instead of communicating with their parents they are gradually decreasing their language development. Some parents realize that the more time their children spend on their devices, the more their language skills are not improving due to a lack of interaction with peers and society. Moreover, Aiken points out that parents need to know that digital devices could carry the risk of radiation exposure which could harm children more than adults (102). I agree with Aiken about decreasing language skills in small children. For instance, my sister in law who works in a learning center told me a story about a parent who registered her daughter to that learning center. This mother told the class team and teacher that her daughter knows a lot of vocabulary because she has been watching videos on Youtube. When this child came to the classroom the little girl did not follow rules and she did not understand basic vocabulary. Parents need to understand that videos on digital screens are not the same as the academic curriculum where children learn manners and appropriate learning skills.
“What actions should parents take to reduce aggressive behavior caused by violent video games?”
Managing children’s behavior is challenging for many parents, especially when their children play violent video games. The article, “Why and How to Include Parents in the Treatment of Adolescents Presenting Internet Gaming Disorder?” states that if parents and adolescents interrupt their intercommunication at some point in their lives, it can affect adolescents’ emotional firmness and lead to a dysfunctional gap in the relationship with their parents. The researchers emphasize that it is fundamental for parents and adolescents to have excellent relationships because it can help adolescents to practice and understand their basic knowledge and skills. Also recognizing and expressing their feelings is something that parents need to explain to their teenagers when they do not win on video games. Researchers also emphasize Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) sessions that focus on “reducing the amount of video game time” and “guides, coaches and shapes more positive and constructive family interchange during family sessions.” This type of therapy will help children to create solid ideas and develop greater control of video games. Having parents engage in adolescent lives will help adolescents feel confident when they lose a game. Lastly, if parents feel overwhelmed with their child’s aggressive behavior after they play video games, they should find outside sources, like emotional therapy, which can help both parents and children.
Politicians and social media entrepreneurs are aware of how digital devices are affecting young children and adolescents. The Cyber Effect, by Mary Aiken, says that powerful men like Jeff Bezos who is the CEO and President of Amazon are supporting early childhood education by encouraging parents to buy books. Aiken supports Bezos’ initiative because reading a book to a child is not just narrating the story but also feeling a close connection with the child. Besides, she recommends good resources like Beyond the Screen which provides “ news, articles, commentaries, and up-to-date advice and recommendations by experts for parents.” Finally, Aiken explains that Taiwan has implemented admirable legislation to prohibit devices for children under two-years-old, control devices for children under eighteen, and make parents responsible for any negative effects that technology has on their child. I like the idea that Bezos is supporting early education programs because children who spend reading time with their parents will learn new vocabulary and be better prepared for school. As a parent, when my children were little I used to take them to a local library where they had programs like reading time and extra activities for small children and their families. I also took my children to The Home Depot where they used to have programs for children to build small trucks, houses, and furniture. I believe if parents spend time finding appropriate sources for their children, they will find many of them which sometimes have convenient hours since some parents work during the day so they can schedule on weekends.
- Turkle Sherry. “Connected, but Alone?” TED.com, March, 2012. https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_connected_but_alone?language=en
- Auxier, Brooke, et al. “Parenting Children in the Age of Screens." Pew Research Center Internet and Technology July 28, 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/07/28/parenting-children-in-the-age-of-screens/>
- Klass, Perri. “Is Digital Addiction a Real Threat for Kids?” Family, 20 May 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/20/well/family/is-digital-addiction-a-real-threat-to-kids.html?se
- Bridle, James, “The nightmare videos of children on YouTube and what's wrong with the internet today.” TED talks Abril, 2018. https://www.ted.com/talks/james_bridle_the_nightmare_videos_of_children_s_youtube_and_what_s_wrong_wnciaith_the_internet_today?language=en
- Bonnaire, Celine, et al. "Why and how to include parents in the treatment of adolescents presenting Internet gaming disorder?" Journal of Behavioral Addictions, vol. 8, no. 2, 2019, p. 201+. Gale Academic OneFile
- Aiken, M. The Cyber Effect: An Expert in Cyberpsychology Explains How Technology Is Shaping Our Children, Our Behavior, and Our Values--and What We Can Do About It . New York: Random House, 2017.