My daughter is 8 years old and, like many of her friends, is a big fan of her iPad. Which is why the latest research by The Boston University School of Medicine team caught my attention in the news today. They’re claiming that children using technology, such as iPads and smartphones, are using the devices to replace the development of emotional and social interaction skills, usually obtained by friendship and unstructured play. Rather than these devices helping your child's development they claim they could in fact, be causing them significant harm.
I say they but I guess that means us as parents, it’s obviously our responsibility to monitor what our children use and for how long. It appears they’ve concluded that a) our children are spending too much time alone and on these devices, missing out on human interaction and b) that by using technology to entertain, distract, pacify or children, we may actually be harming them. Crying child? All to easy to hand over the iPad to calm them down and many parents are going down this route apparently, leaving children unable to work through the problem emotionally and resolve it.
My friend and I were actually discussing this last week. With a new baby she’s been feeling guilty about the amount of time her oldest son, he’s 5, has been spending on his Xbox lately and admits it’s longer than before his new sister arrived. So how long is too long and is it different for every child? My concerns are similar yet different. As a single parent, my daughter is an only child and yes sometimes I have to work when she’s at home and if she’s happy on her iPad for the odd half hour, is it really doing her any harm?
So many questions and yet again it would seem, something else the experts have decided that we parents are getting wrong. Me? I’m quite happy that my daughter is IT competent, more than me, although admittedly that wouldn’t be difficult, and has received recognition of the fact in the form of certificates from her school. She has lots of friends, we spend a lot of time together both at home and outside and shock horror, she still goes outdoors to play.
I’m coming down on the side of “everything in moderation” but yes I do accept that isn’t always easy to achieve especially in this day and age. The best of intentions can go out the window when you have a deadline to meet, packed lunches to make or another child to attend to. “10 more minutes” can easily turn into half an hour and so it continues.
Do you regulate the time your child spends on iPads and smartphones or do they simply not have them at all? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this one here or over on our Facebook page.