The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child

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The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child

Remembering the good old days when we grew up is a memory trip worth taking, when trying to understand the problems facing today’s children. Just 20 years ago, children were playing outside all day, riding bikes, playing sports and building forts. Masters of imaginary games, children of the past created their own form of play that did not require expensive equipment or parental supervision. Children of the past moved… a lot, and their sensory world was nature-based and simple. In the past, family time was often spent doing homework, and children had to wait to meet each day. The dining room table was a central place where families gathered to eat and talk about their day, and after dinner it became the center for baking, crafts and chores.

Today’s families are different. The impact of technology on the 21st century family is fracturing its very foundation, and causing a disintegration of the core values ​​that long ago were what held families together. Juggling work, home and community life, parents now rely heavily on communication, information and transportation technology to make their lives faster and more efficient. Entertainment technology (TV, internet, videogames, iPods) has advanced so quickly, that families have not noticed the significant impact and changes in their family structure and lifestyle. A 2010 Kaiser Foundation study showed that elementary-age children use an average of 8 hours per day of entertainment technology, 75% of these children have TVs in their bedrooms, and 50% of homes North Americans have TV all day. Add e-mail, cell phones, Internet browsing, and chat lines, and we begin to see the pervasive aspects of technology on our home life and family environment. Gone is the dining room table conversation, replaced by the “big screen” and take out. Children now rely on technology for much of their play, grossly limiting the challenges to their creativity and imagination, as well as limiting the challenges their bodies need to achieve optimal sensory and motor development. . Sedentary bodies bombarded by chaotic sensory stimulation, result in delays in the child’s developmental attitudes, with a subsequent impact on the basic skills for literacy. Hard-wired for high speed, today’s youth enter school struggling with the self-regulation and attentional skills necessary for learning, eventually becoming significant behavior management issues for classroom teachers.

So what is the impact of technology on the developing child? The development of children’s sensory and motor systems have not evolved biologically to accommodate this sedentary, but frenetic and chaotic nature of today’s technology. The impact of rapidly advancing technology on the developing child has seen an increase in physical, psychological and behavioral disorders that health and education systems are just beginning to detect, much less understand. Childhood obesity and diabetes are now national epidemics in Canada and the United States. Diagnosis of ADHD, autism, coordination disorder, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders can be causally linked to the excessive use of technology, and are growing at an alarming rate. An urgent closer look at the critical factors for meeting developmental milestones, and the subsequent impact of technology on those factors, would help parents, teachers and health professionals to better understand the complexities of this issue, and help create effective strategies to reduce the use of technology. The three critical factors for the healthy physical and psychological development of the child are movement, touch and connection with other humans. Movement, touch and connection are forms of essential sensory input that are integral to the eventual development of a child’s motor and attachment systems. When movement, touch and connection are deprived, there are devastating consequences.

Children need 3-4 hours per day of active roll and tumble play to achieve adequate sensory stimulation for their vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile systems for normal development. The critical period for the development of attachment is 0-7 months, where the child-parent bond is best facilitated by close contact with the primary caregiver, and lots of eye contact. These types of sensory input ensure the normal development of posture, bilateral coordination, optimal states of arousal and the self-regulation necessary to obtain the foundational skills for eventual school entry. Children with low tone, children who do not achieve motor skills, and children who are unable to pay attention or achieve basic literacy skills, are frequent visitors to pediatric physical therapy clinics and occupational therapy. The use of safety restraint devices, such as child bucket seats and baby packs and strollers, also have limited movement, touch and connection, such as excessive use of TV and video games. Many parents today perceive outdoor play as “unsafe”, limiting even the essential components of development usually achieved in outdoor and rough play. Dr. Ashley Montagu, who has extensively studied the developing tactile sensory system, reports that when children are deprived of human connection and touch, they fail to thrive and many eventually die. Dr. Montagu states that children deprived of touch develop into children who show excessive agitation and anxiety, and can be depressed from early childhood.

As children connect more and more to technology, society sees a disconnection from themselves, others and nature. As children develop and form their identities, they are often unable to discern whether they are the “killing machine” seen on TV and in videogames, or just a shy, lonely child who needs a friend. Addiction to TV and video games is causing an irreversible epidemic in the world of mental and physical health disorders, but we all find excuses to continue. Where 100 years ago we needed to transform to survive, we are now under the assumption that we need technology to survive. The catch is that technology is killing what we love most…connection with other human beings. The critical period for attachment formation is 0 – 7 months of age. Attachment or connection is the formation of a primary bond between the developing child and the parent, and is integral to the developing child’s sense of security. Healthy attachment formation results in a happy and calm child. Disruption or neglect of primary attachment results in an anxious and agitated child. The family over the use of technology has a serious impact not only the formation of early attachment, but also have a negative impact on the psychological and behavioral health of the child.

Further analysis of the impact of technology on child development indicates that while the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and attachment systems are under stimulated, the visual and auditory sensory systems are in “overload”. This sensory imbalance creates huge problems in overall neurological development, as the anatomy, chemistry and pathways of the brain are altered and permanently altered. Children who are exposed to violence through TV and videogames are in a high state of adrenaline and stress, since the body does not know that what it sees is not real. Children who abuse technology report persistent general body sensations of “shaking,” increased breathing and heart rate, and a general state of “discomfort.” This can best be described as a persistent hypervigilant sensory system, always “on alert” for the onslaught coming from videogame characters. While the long-term effects of this chronic state of stress on the developing child are unknown, we do know that chronic stress in adults results in a weakened immune system and a variety of serious illnesses and disorders. Prolonged visual fixation on a fixed distance, two-dimensional screen severely limits the ocular development necessary for eventual printing and reading. Consider the difference between visual location on a variety of objects of different shapes and sizes in the near and far distance (as practiced in outdoor play), as opposed to looking at a bright screen at a fixed distance. This rapid intensity, frequency and duration of visual and auditory stimulation results in a “hard-wiring” of the child’s sensory system for a rapid, with subsequent devastating effects on the child’s ability to imagine, attend and focus on academic tasks. Dr. Dimitri Christakis found that every hour of TV watched every day between the ages of 0 and 7 equates to a 10% increase in attention problems at age seven.

In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement recommending that children under the age of two should not use technology, but children 0 to 2 years of age average 2.2 hours of TV per day. The Academy also recommended that children older than two should limit use to one hour per day if they have any physical, psychological or behavioral problems, and two hours per day maximum if they do not, but parents of elementary children allow 8 hours per day. day. France has gone so far as to eliminate all “baby TV” because of the harmful effects on the child’s development. How can parents continue to live in a world where they know what is wrong with their children but do nothing to help them? It seems that today’s families have been dragged into the “Virtual Reality Dream”, where everyone believes that life is something that requires an escape. The instant gratification received from the continuous use of TV, videogame and internet technology has replaced the desire for human connection.

It is important to come together as parents, teachers and therapists to help society “wake up” and see the devastating effects that technology has not only on the physical, psychological and behavioral health of our child, but also on their ability to learn and support staff and family. relationships. While technology is a train that continuously moves forward, knowledge about its harmful effects, and action taken to balance the use of technology with exercise and family time, work to support our children, and also to save our world. While no one can argue the benefits of advanced technology in today’s world, the connection to these devices may have resulted in a disconnection from what society should value more, children. Rather than hugging, playing, rough housing, and conversation with children, parents are increasingly resorting to providing their children with more videogames, TVs in the car, and the latest iPods and mobile devices, creating a deep and widening chasm. between parents and child. .

Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist and child development expert developed a concept called “Balanced Technology Management” (BTM) where parents manage the balance between the activities that children need for growth and success with the use of technology. The company of Rowan Zone’in Programs Inc. has developed a “System of Solutions” to address the excessive use of technology in children through the creation of Zone’in Products, Workshops, Training and Consultation services.

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