Smartphones: Too little, too much

By: Sarah Galzerano

Children and smartphones are two things we see attached to each other, it seems like everywhere we go. Why should this bother me? Heck, I’m still a kid myself. It’s just annoying when I see kids with an unhealthy obsession for technology that, in my opinion, they shouldn’t have. It wasn’t until recently that I learned how many negative effects that too much screen-time can have on a child (or anybody).

According to The New York Times, in an interview with Steve Jobs, he was asked, “So, your kids must love the iPad?” to which he replied, “They haven’t used it… We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” This shocked me, coming from one of the biggest names in technology. The fact that a tech C.E.O. wouldn’t bathe his kids in all the fancy products he invented, makes me wonder if he knew things that most parents don’t know, or don’t care about.

The major negative effect of screen-time for children is having no face-to-face interaction. As babies, face-to-face interaction is really the only type of communication we have, and it’s the primary way we learn. According to pediatrician, Dr. Jenny Radeskey, “They (children) learn language, they learn about their own emotions, they learn how to regulate them… They learn by watching us how to have a conversation, how to read other people’s facial expressions. And if that’s not happening, children are missing out on important development milestones.” I have already observed children, mostly pre-teens, who have “addictions” to their phones, showing signs of being socially awkward. I have heard kids my own age saying they find it weird when their friends’ parents talk to them, and just want to leave the conversation. I’ve always loved talking to my friends’ parents, and don’t understand why one would feel uncomfortable in such a situation. It’s just communication.

There are many other negative outcomes of too much screen-time with children. One effect has to do with rapid brain growth. According to The Huffington Post, an infant’s brain is in a continuous state of rapid development until they turn 21 years old. Over exposure to technology can cause attention deficit disorder, impaired learning, cognitive delays, delayed development and more. The most interesting negative effect I discovered is addiction to technology, which is my main reason for judging children with smartphones. One in 11 children, 8-18 years are addicted to technology. Some more obvious, negative effects of too much technology are obesity, sleep deprivation, and aggression (from violent media).

A 2014 AT&T survey revealed that the average child receives his first cell phone just after he turns 12, a third of which are smart-phones. Children should not be that attached to their cell phones, even though smartphones are very easy to become addicted to. Something I didn’t come across while researching this topic was the differentiating opinion between smartphones and general cell phones. I think, in today’s society, a normal cell phone (that can only make text/calls) is practically a necessity for kids age 10+, for safety purposes. However, I don’t think it’s necessary for young kids to have unlimited plans, they only use it to gab with their friends all day (unless they’re monitored). Also, I think it’s highly uncalled-for to buy them smartphones, because to them, they are toys.

In the long run, smartphones can be helpful, if used in the correct way. Some adults, that are very busy, use smart-phones for all that they are worth- helpful tools, to research on the go, easy communication, and much more. I believe that smartphones for children are just expensive toys that destroy communication skills, and they shouldn’t have them. My main opinion, however, is that the benefit of smartphones for children is too little, and the possibility of negative effects is too much.

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