Since past two months at Playshaala, I have been interacting with many parents of the young child. Among many, there was one obvious observation where it was almost recurring and common to almost all parents. They were all complaining that their children spend significant time on mobile and it is probably the only toy that is keeping them engaging and quieter at times.
It’s well known that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs limited their offspring’s use of technology for their kids
Recently, there was an article in Hindustan times narrating a nightmare that our kids are increasingly depending on their mobile time and it is leading to fatal issues such as increase of suicidal rate, depression, lack of social integration, and Change in behaviour.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, meanwhile, advises that parents limit screen use to one hour per day for children ages 2 to 5 years, and advises “consistent limits” for children ages 6 and older.
Indian college students check their phones at about 150 times a day on an average and spend 4-7 hours on their smartphones.
One can see the smartphone addiction in other countries where India is way higher than the rest of the world.
The basic message is that screen time isn’t bad in and of itself, it’s that too much of it can pull a child away from more meaningful activities, such as outdoor play, interacting with other kids, constrained exposure to technologies at an early age and getting a decent night’s sleep.
But what about the parents?
Emerging research is starting to look at the role that parents’ screen usage has on a child’s development, and the news isn’t good.
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Old robots are becoming more human and young humans are becoming more like robots.
The average smartphone user checks their phone 85 times a day. Almost half (46%) of them say they cannot live without their smartphones.
One of the key charges levelled at distracted parenting is that it harms a young child’s language development, and language is the single best predictor of school achievement.
“One study showed that infants exposed to this interactive, emotionally responsive speech style at 11 months and 14 months knew twice as many words at age 2 as ones who weren’t exposed to it,” she writes.
In an experiment involving 38 mothers and their two-year-olds, the mothers were asked to teach their toddlers two new words, one at a time. During one of the learning periods, the mother’s phone would ring and she would stop and take the call. In the other, the mother would not be interrupted. Children learned the word when the teaching was not interrupted, but when the interaction was interrupted, they didn’t learn the word.
Children are programmed to get their caregivers attention, meaning that the constantly distracted parent is unwittingly likely to increase the bad behaviour and tantrums that youngsters often rely on to get attention.
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Another study found that visits to the hospital for children under five increased in areas of the city that received 3G/4G. From 2005 to 2012, injuries to children under five increased by 10% as the network of 3G was expanded. The authors of the study suggest that the reason is that smartphones distract caregivers from supervising children.
The addicted parent
Telling a child to entertain themselves while the parent completes chores, or to go out and play is perfectly valid. Children need to learn independence, but the issue is that parents are present, yet not present.
“We seem to have stumbled into the worst model of parenting imaginable — always present physically, yet not present emotionally.”
“In nutshell, when you are with your child, put down your damned phone.”