Device Addiction – We are Facing a Digital Tsunami

Come on, admit it: There are times when you’re too busy, too tired or too distracted to fully engage with your kids, so you take the easy way out and leave them be with their computers, tablets or cellphones. Literally and figuratively, you leave them to their own devices. Guilty as charged!
So it should come as no surprise that children are getting hooked on their screens earlier than ever. A recent survey found that infants just six months old were already logging half an hour day on mobile devices — and not just watching cartoons. A third of them were already swiping and tapping screens. By age two, 38% of kids under two have used a mobile device according to Common Sense Media. Many of them are already multitasking with tablets and smartphones, sometimes while watching TV. By the time kids are teenagers, the digital habit is totally ingrained, with one in four teens admitting that they use their cellphones all the time, according to the Pew Research Center.

What’s a parent to do in the face of this digital tsunami? They try, and often fail, to legislate screen time. Or they give up altogether. Despite voicing concern about screen overload, two thirds of parents said they had no rules limiting their children’s screen time, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. And a recent Harris Poll found a similar disconnect in parental attitudes: While 58% say that monitoring kids screen time is important, 59% say they don’t feel guilty about using mobile devices as a babysitter. Fathers are more laissez-faire than moms, as are parents over 45 compared to millennial moms and dads.

But as parents increasingly rely on screens to keep children occupied, our kids are paying the price. Fact is, putting a tablet in a young child’s hand is no substitute for adult/child interaction. It’s the give-and-take between parents and kids that enables vital brain development during the pre-toddler years. When parents don’t make the effort to talk to their baby or toddler, it inhibits their language skills. What’s more, children learn better with things they can touch versus what they see on a screen. Grasping concepts in 3D is far more effective than just two.

Teens suffer consequences as well. They may think multitasking makes them more productive and efficient, but it doesn’t. Every time you switch from one device to another, the brain has to adapt and adjust. It’s spending a good chunk of energy dealing with all the back and forth, and actually starts to shut down. “For tasks that are at all complicated, no matter how good you have become at multitasking, you’re still going to suffer hits against your performance,” David Meyer at the University of Michigan told The New York Times. “You will be worse compared to if you were actually concentrating from start to finish on the task.”

But wait, it gets worse: More and more parents are also using their own screens to tune out their children. A recent study at Boston Medical Center found that about 75% of adults took out a mobile device almost immediately when they were eating with their kids at a fast food restaurant. And in another study, children reported that they felt frustrated and were more likely to act out when their parents were on devices.

To help break this vicious circle, we need to do something and do it now. Screen is one tool available in today’s market that allow parents to manage all devices the kids use every day. From phones, to tablets, computers, Chromebooks, to the TV, PlayStation, Xbox, WiiU, Chromecast, Roku and more. Simply manage their time and block usage when needed. No more doing homework while Netfix is on the TV.

Today’s guest author is Tali Orad. Tali Orad is an entrepreneur, software engineer, and proud mom of three. Tali is also the founder of Screen dealing with the technology tsunami on a daily basis.

5 thoughts on “Device Addiction – We are Facing a Digital Tsunami”

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this. We recently got new phones and turned our old phones into “game phones” for our boys. I feel like we do a great job at limiting the time they spend on them but they CONSTANTLY ask for them over and over and over. I want to throw them away but at the same time I understand that they have there place, done in moderation. Maybe their desire to play on them will fade with time. I hope so. I try to stay off of my phone as much as possible when around the boys and promote exercise and activity in order to avoid being a hypocrite. I also try to put my phone away at mealtime, but it doesn’t always work out. Fortunately, they both love reading books so when they start asking a lot we just read.

    There’s no manual on this. Our parents didn’t have to deal with it so we don’t have their example to base our approach on. It’s a tough one and I believe and can become an addiction if our children are over exposed to these devices at such a young age. We all need to be careful and avoid the easy route, which is giving up and giving in to their requests. The easy route is very rarely the right one.

    1. Well said. Our old phones have also become “game phones” I think they’d be used 10 hours a day if it were up to my kids.

      It’s true about our parents not having to deal with this exactly but I did get an NES when I was 7 and occasionally I can remember my parents having to “banish” me to play outside 🙂

  2. I completely agree that kids in this generation are becoming reliant on TV and devices and it is of my opinion that it is more than they should be. My kids never had devices to occupy their time. Yes, TV, but not as much as kids watch now. I used the TV as a so called babysitter when I had chores to do, but also interacted in between and made sure to the best of my ability that I didn’t utilize the TV as much. Mostly, I would take opportunities of nap time to handle chores. Now I see my two grandkids with tablets or their mom’s phone instead of doing more productive things. It is sad, because I know that kids need and want attention form their parents. When they are here I do try to distract them from those devices. Suggesting dolls, books, crafts and games. I do understand that each generation is different and that with busy schedules it can be hard not to allow technology to hold our kids attention, but we need to be mindful that it doesn’t get out of control.

  3. I think that the break away from interaction has been going on for a long time. It really began with the Television. And as parents became busier and it became harder to have one income households we moved over to using the Television in lieu of a babysitter. And the truth is we need to disconnect as much as the children. We need to let our kids know that it is not normal nor is it healthy human interaction. That in order to have a relationship we need to have FaceTime, and not the kind that you get from an IPhone. Yes things have gotten easier to access but we are rapidly losing the art of communication. If the divorce rate was bad before I can only imagine how high it will go when we stop being able to communicate in person. When you see two people smiling and talking to each other, six feet away, through their cell phones, we are in deep trouble indeed.

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