TechNOlogy

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By: Maria Goodwin

Compare a personal public bus ride experience with an bus experience your grandparents have had. It’s likely they will tell of fresh conversation and meeting new people. These days, we put plugs in and tune out. Screens surround us – iPods, TVs, cellphones, computers – our lives are enveloped in technology and if often seems there is no escaping it. Millennials  are very attached to technology, but the most in ‘danger’ of a full real-world detachment are the future generations who will grow up completely surrounded by technology. I have watched my little cousins all sit together and not say one word to each while they stare blankly into their bring screens. A moment meant to be spent in community is squandered while emojis are jammed into a text box. As a nanny of six years, what I found most terrifying was the youngest boy being able to work his way around Youtube and iPhone apps, but he could barely form full sentences. Though we’ve made countless important discoveries and have accomplished a great deal thanks to the ever-evolving technological world, the lasting effect it has on our upcoming generations is one I feel could be devastating, especially in a social context.

The excessive use of ‘screen-devices’ at an early age and at such a constant rate is hindering our children on a social, mental and physical level. The amount of time spent on the screen must be cut down to ensure a healthier mind and body and to allow children to experience the ups and downs of interaction in society.

In an advertisement by Nature Valley, three generations are interviewed and asked the same question: “When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?” The answers from the baby boomers and their children ranged from picking blueberries to building forts. All of their answers were full of outdoor activities with family and friends. The boomer’s grandchildren, however, had different answers. “Video games. Go on my cell phone. Text. Watch Netflix.” These are the answers quickly provided by the younger generation. One girl even claimed, “I would die without my tablet.” Statements like this, even given in jest, show the extreme attachment kids have with these devices. They are obsessed, to say the least. It is sad to think that future generations will be so consumed by technology that they won’t be interested in, or even have a chance to experience, building a fort or playing hide and seek because they are too involved in their digital world.. What I find most distressing and disturbing is that there is scientific proof that demonstrates the negative effects of such behavior on the mind and body.

Technology, and the vast amount of screens, can actually change our brain chemistry. Dr Aric Sigman, who works independently in health education, states that the most notable change is “the release of dopamine.” The result of this change can be highly addictive. The addiction leads to more screen time, starting a cycle which in time can cause some serious harm to the mind and body. Pediatric occupational therapist and biologist, Cris Rowan, has expressed how high levels of stimulation are “resulting in delays in attaining child developmental milestones.”

So what we view as a casual time-waster is actually have a real effect on children and their development. Rowan also states that “diagnoses of ADHD, autism, coordination disorder, developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are associated with technology overuse, and are increasing at an alarming rate. While there are of course other reasons children can be afflicted with such ailments, like having a genetic predisposition, if we can help reduce the chances of these illnesses, why not try it?

We try to feed our children the right food and give them the right vitamins while allowing them to be consumed by a glowing screen for seven hours a day. In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement recommending that all children less than two years of age should not use any technology. However, studies show that toddlers up to two years old still watch an average amount of 2.2 hours of TV per day. Hours spent in front on TVs or playing video games can really limit development processes, but what is more evident is the physical toll. Louisiana State University hosted a study that found that “lack of sleep and a lack of physical activity with too much television time puts major lifestyle risk factors for childhood obesity.” Children are sitting inside for hours each day in front of some device instead of running around and being in fresh air. These stagnant hours add up and contribute to the weight problem that is rapidly growing in our country. Nickelodeon has tried to promote a more active lifestyle by blocking out the screen for an hour on their network in order to encourage kids to go out and play. This is a positive step and one we need to see more corporations and communities embrace. We need to try our best to raise happy and healthy children and do what we can to limit the amount of time our children spent in front of screens.

The development of a young mind is not the only risk factor, of course. All of our brains are working in overdrive while we manage and play with our technology. Studies show that our memories are taking a hard hit. Computer science professor, Erik Fransén, states that, “even a single session of Internet usage can make it more difficult to file away information in your memory…”. We are over stimulating our brains at a rate that we can not break down. “It’s hard for people to metabolize and make sense of the information because there’s so much coming at them and they’re so drawn to it.” I would be lying if I said that I believed all technology is ‘bad,’ considering I am here typing this piece on my computer, however I am saying that the six and a half hours teenagers spend on machines, and the three hours that three year olds spend in front of any screen is excessive and detrimental to their overall health.

Some may argue that technology has educational benefits for young children and therefore it is justified to have them sit and to watch television for long periods of time. However, a study conducted by Professor Susan Fenstermacher and psychologist Rachel Barr shed light on this subject matter. ‘Baby Einstein’ videos are familiar to many parents and were marketed for their educational purposes. After their study, Fenstermacher and Barr concluded that “these videos presented a narrow range of educational content for babies in a manner less than ideal for developmental growth.” A highly important factor for a child to develop and thrive is face-to-face contact with another human and watching a video lacks this key piece. In the study mentioned above, Fenstermacher and Barr found that the Baby Einstein videos had “only about one-third of the scenes containing any interaction between a parent or caregiver and a child – the sort of interaction they argued is best for the babies learning outcomes.” Television shows targeted at young kids are not always as educational as they may show to be. I would argue that if you are choosing to open your child to television early on, limit it. Barr warns that “an hour is a long time.” 
Our obsession with personal technology and the digital realm is creating an alternate world, one that prevents individuals from experiencing the wonder of the world around us. Not only is it a shame, but is has been proven to be detrimental to all aspects of physical health. Parents need to take action and take control of the amount of time and exposure their children have to technology. Luckily there are organizations like the NFL’s PLAY 60, which encouraging children to get out for 60 minutes a day and be as active as they can to help reverse childhood obesity. If we could create more organizations like this one and pair it along with programs like Nickelodeon’s, then I think we could really turn things around for our future generations.

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One Comment to “TechNOlogy”

  1. I found this article to be very interesting, as I really did not know that the overuse of technology could cause those types of problems. I watched a lot of television, played a lot of video games, and I also played outside when I was a child, and as an adult, I thought that playing video games stimulates your brain. However, I could see that the overuse of technology could cause some type of problem to an individual, especially one that is not yet completely developed. Parents are responsible for what their kids are allowed to do in the house, but it is hard to prevent them from going on their phones, tablets, computers, or watching television, especially if they have a lot of things to do around the house. I believe that parents use television and video games as a way of babysitting their children while they do other tasks around the house. I also believe that moderation is key, and playing video games does actually stimulate the brain, so it’s not really a bad thing until you go overboard.

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