Technology is now part of our daily lifestyle. The way we communicate with each other is driven by technology, enabling us to now speak via our phones, computers, cars and even watches. Despite the insightful qualities technology can bring to a child such as developing a strong sense of critical thinking, problem solving skills and creativity, overuse of technological devices can be detrimental to a child’s social, neurological, emotional and physical wellbeing.
It seems to be a common situation for parents that a child demands to play on a technological device, particularly in their bedroom with the door closed. Does your child have a right to privacy? Do you have a right to know what is going on as the parent? It is vital for you, the parent, to have rights and rules in your own house. You have the right to know what your child is doing on that device and understand why they are so invested.
The dangers of the world wide web
What would you do as parent if you saw your child playing with knives in the kitchen? You would alarmingly remind them about the dangers of playing with sharp objects and put them in a place they cannot reach. Using a technological device for an extensive amount of time is dangerous. Yet, not many parents react the same as they would if they saw their child playing with sharp objects.
According to an article in Education Today, a child using a device for more than a couple of hours is considered a threat to their safety, wellbeing and family.
“Socially, the children are placing themselves - and your family - in danger. The secretive computer engagement is as dangerous as a stranger coming to the door and asking you if it was okay if they could spend time with them in their room. And, while the door is closed!”
Types of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a worldwide problem. All the common types of cyberbullying include:
Exclusion (tagging friends but excluding one person, secret message groups)
Outing (public humiliation online)
Fraping (Facebook term; stealing one’s identity to impersonate them)
Dissing (public online slander)
Trickery (phishing emails, scam pop ups)
Trolling (keyboard warriors targeting individuals with nasty comments)
Physical, social, emotional and neurological harms
When a child uses a technological device excessively, their neurological, social and emotional capabilities are at risk. Students are using devices at school and at home for homework, but when you add in Netflix, ITunes, Facebook, gaming and all kinds of programs, then your child’s screen time becomes a red flag.
The sad irony is that social media was designed to make our world a smaller, more connected place. Yet real life interaction particularly in the younger generations is decreasing at a rapid rate.
According to Education Today, “Endless computer use leads to children and teenagers losing their capacity for empathy.”
This is certainly alarming as empathy is an emotional skill that is learned and takes time to develop. In Early Learning and even Primary School, teachers are always working to improve the empathetic levels in children so they are in touch with their emotional and social intelligence.
Unlike reading a book, watching television or playing a game on a device are passive ways of learning. In other words, the brain is not actively engaging its cognitive functions to heighten its current intelligence.
In the Education Today article, “Neurologically, it is also dangerous because the hours of technology use are rewriting the brain and excluding real life social engagement.”
Our brains develop social understanding when we interact with other humans in a real life setting. Forging interaction can lead to anti-social behaviour and can halt the progression of self-confidence and general wellbeing.
A child’s physical wellbeing is also at risk when they are overusing their technological devices. Children who are not living an active lifestyle can put themselves at risk of obesity, which is attached to other health issues including diabetes and high cholesterol.
According to Better Health, “From 1985 to 1995 the number of overweight 7–15 year olds almost doubled. The numbers of obese children has more than tripled. At the current rate, it is predicted that 65 per cent of young Australians will be overweight or obese by 2020.”
Screen time is considered one of the main factors behind genetics and poor food choices that contribute to childhood obesity.
What can you do to control your child’s time on technology?
“Personal interaction has the potential for possibilities that may lead to an array of solutions.”
A quick snapshot of solutions:
Cut off your child’s devices after a certain time
Ensure firewalls are on all devices
Parental lock out systems are in place
Check in with your child by having a serious conversation
Remind your child of the dangers of the internet
Encourage them to hand write more and draw on paper to express themselves
Have regular face to face chats with your child to maintain real life interaction
Ensure all social media accounts are switched to private
Ensure all passwords and credit card details are not autosaved to your device (delete your history to erase this)
Update your devices often with the latest version to increase security
Encourage 30 minutes of daily activity
Encourage co-curricular activities such as taking up a sporting hobby (dance, netball, AFL etc)
Monitoring your child’s social online activity
The main solution is to keep the real life interaction alive so that your child is continuing to speak aloud, socially engage with you, understand empathy and consolidate emotional intelligence.