Generation Technology: The Pros and Cons of Children’s Technology Use
Martha A. Torres, Ph.D.
Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Children born after 2000 have enjoyed a variety of technological advances for most of their lives, leading to jokes, stereotypes, and real concerns about young people’s use, and frequent overuse, of technology. It is understandable that parents worry about the daunting effects of electronic innovation on their kids.
Here Are Some Reasons Parents Are Worried:
- Family values are being tested
- Children are not learning how to socialize in person
- Children are not learning to delay gratification
- Children are not developing problem-solving skills
- Children’s physical, emotional, and cognitive development may be negatively affected
Existing research about the effects of technology use can be overwhelming and is often contradictory. With guidance, however, children’s and young adults’ relationships with technology can lead to healthy, happy adulthood in the cyber age.
Concerns of Technology Use
Children’s emotional development can be derailed by the unrealistic expectations formed by technology. Tech often grants us instant gratification, making obsolete the skills of patience or hard work in pursuit of a desirable outcome. Children who are accustomed to tech rarely have the chance to practice dealing with delays, to work or wait for anything.
Furthermore, children’s technology use can seriously undermine family values and unity in the home due to its powerful influence, including social media. Generational tension is not a new concept; however, modern technology gives our children a lot more freedom, making it harder to parent than ever before.
It is crucial for parents to be watchful of children’s use of technology, as well as the popular online trends. We all want to raise our children into healthy, kind, and confident human beings. The key to this is both vigilance and openness – we must be ready to have conversations about what our children are learning, exploring, and experimenting with.
Tech Isn’t All Bad
It’s important to acknowledge the many benefits that come from balanced technology use. Shunning technology from the home might be tempting, but this would effectively cut children off from learning essential life skills. It allows children:
- to form and maintain relationships that would not be possible due to geography, inability to travel, or economic insecurity.
- to have broader opportunities to query ideas, do research and develop creativity.
- to learn how to network and collaborate.
The past couple of years have seen increased levels of anxiety and depression – especially in children and young adults. Some sources cite technology use as a major cause of this problem, but while there is a correlation between tech and mental health, technology is not necessarily the culprit here.
Studies show that youth suffering from anxiety and depression prefer technology to in-person communication. Technology can make people feel like they have a place of refuge, where they can still socialize and perceive themselves as ‘all right.’ For teens especially, increased tech usage can act as a signal of deeper issues to be addressed.
Parents should be aware of changes children’s technology use that may be a sign of internal struggle. Consider enlisting the help of a mental health professional if your child is self-isolating, withdrawing, and becoming distant.
Managing the Benefits and Risks of Technology
So, how do we make sure that our child receives the benefits of technology while also reducing the negative consequences of overuse?
- Remember that technology cannot be used as a form of daycare, entertainment, or cure for boredom. Its use should be purposeful and regulated. If you don’t know the ‘why’ behind your family’s use of technology, it’s likely unnecessary in that moment.
- Set limits on screentime, particularly with young children. Work together with your family to create alternative activities to keep kids off the computer habitually.
- Spend time with your children. Talk to them, even if they are a pre-verbal toddler or a withdrawn teenager. Being open and aware lets you learn about the things that attract your children to technology, making it possible to manage their access to it.
- Model balanced technology use and share your own perspectives with your children. Set a schedule for yourself and show it to your kids, encouraging them to create something similar with your help.
If you think your child has an unhealthy relationship with technology, the parent coaches at PM Behavioral Health can be a great source of support.
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Digital guidelines: Promoting healthy technology use for children
Connected and Content: Managing Healthy Technology Use
Generation Text: Raising Well-Adjusted Kids in an Age of Instant Everything; Osit, Michael: Amacom Publishing, NYNY, 2010