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.