The technology in our world has advanced tremendously in the areas of science, engineering, and medicine. We have been able to discover new things about our world by way of new tools and machinery. But, with the good, comes the bad. The wave of “smart” electronics has started to make its impression on our mental health as well as our youth.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children spend an average of seven and a half hours every day on digital devices. Not only does this mean that our kids are becoming more inactive physically, but they are also damaging their mental well-being and resiliency muscles. Without resilience, children can struggle when dealing with failures, relationships, and health conditions, physical as well as mental.
What happens when a child is glued to their electronics? Here are just a few reasons to have your child (as well as yourself) take a time-out from technology:
1. Brain development can be altered. In a study performed by Arain et al, a child’s brain continues to develop up to 25 years of age. Stimulation caused by overexposure to technologies (cell phones, internet, iPads, TV, etc.) has been associated with attention deficit, rational delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity, and decreased ability to self-regulate.
2. No physical activity equals less mental activity. When we are constantly watching a screen, not only is our body not moving, but our mind is not exercising either. Aside for physical stamina, kids also gain many social skills from playing and running around with their friends such as compromise, sharing, and resolving conflict. Sitting and staring at digital media can contribute to decreased concentration and memory due to frontal cortex damage.
3. Independence is becoming a lost art. Today, if our child forgets to bring their books or homework to school, they can quickly dial or text their parents who are all too quick to run to their child’s aid. In this instance, bringing the homework teaches the child that they can rely on their parents to get them out of a jam. Instead, we need to let our children fail every now and again so they pick up skills for themselves and learn from their mistakes.
4. Relationships become more detached. The more connected we are to our devices, the less time we spend with our loved ones. When it comes to a parent child relationship, parents need to be careful how much time they spend with technology. When a parental attachment is lacking, often times the child will resort to attaching to technology. This addiction can be dangerous if the digital content is violent as the child may act out these virtual scenarios.
5. A time alone to your thoughts is healthy! A prominent component to flexing your resiliency muscle is to have time for you and you alone. Being able to reflect on the day or an event lets you sort out what went right, what went wrong, and how can you improve.
It is important to pay attention to how much time we spend in front of screens and how this in turn can affect our youth and those around us. Many of us spend our downtime mindlessly flipping through Facebook, checking our text messages, or scanning Pinterest. Make your mental health a priority by using technology sparingly and keeping digital damage at bay.
Janae Shillito, Project Coordinator, The Kim Foundation
Janae Shillito is the newest edition to The Kim Foundation and serves as Project Coordinator. She holds two science degrees with her alma maters including the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Janae’s love of volunteering and helping those without a voice created a strong desire to become a part of the non-profit world. She enjoys instructing kickboxing classes, reading a good book, and being outside with her husband, Cory, and Rottweiler, Hank.