As an occupational therapist, I observe children and their parents in a natural environment – their homes, where I witness recurring patterns time and time again. Today’s homes are equipped with state-of-the-art child safety proof gadgets, such as knobs, locks, gates, monitors, etc. On the other hand, I also see cell phones, tablets, remotes, and iPods laying around the house and easily accessible to children. Children freely navigate from one device to another while parents are telling me “we are trying to limit our kids’ access to technology”.
We are a safety obsessed society. Unfortunately, we protect our children from all dangers – except from the real threat – technology. Overuse of technology in childhood is a time bomb and since its side effect are not as immediate as those from falling down stairs, we tend to minimize its significance.
Overuse of technology rewires children's brain to expect high levels of stimulation and perceive reality as boring. It overstimulates their brains and leaves children vulnerable to social, emotional, behavioural, academic and physical challenges.
As parents, we need to refresh our perspective on the impact of technological overuse on children's development. Why don’t we put a hammer in the middle of the room? Because we understand that it is dangerous for our children. The same is true for our everyday, handheld, consumer electronics.
Rules, schedules and limits about technology use should be established
As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should not have access to screen media exposure until at least 2 years of age. Children older than 3 years of age should not spend more than 1-2 hours a day using entertainment screen time
Technological devices should be stored away and should be password protected
Children should not have devices in their bedrooms and should not be using technology an hour before bedtime
Avoid technology use in cars, restaurants, during family meals
Be a role model for your child by minimizing your time spent using screens
Educate your children on the importance of balanced technology use for their body and mind
For proper development, children need to spend more time playing outdoors, doing chores, art projects, having family dinners and engaging in conversations and creative play
Technology is a real threat for children’s growing bodies and minds. Parents have to take the responsibility to protect their children from overuse of technology the way they protect their children from other hazards.
Victoria Prooday, Occupational Therapist