Excessive use of computer games among young people in China appears to be taking an alarming turn. Check out the video documentary “Web Junkie.” It is a real eye opener. Yikes! http://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000002657962/chinas-web-junkies.html This video highlights the effects on teenagers who become hooked on video games, playing for dozens of hours at a time often without breaks to eat, sleep or even use the bathroom.
Chinese doctors consider this phenomenon a clinical disorder. Treatment includes military discipline, complete isolation from all media, (the effectiveness of which remains to be demonstrated) and the parents are encouraged to attend the multi-month long therapy.
People around the world are plugged in and tuned out for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy and normal. It starts as early as preverbal toddlers being handed their parents’ cellphones and tablets to stay quiet and engaged.
The American Academy of Pediatrics cites many studies in their policy statement on “Children, Adolescents, and the Media,” concerning screen time and health. “Many parents seem to have few rules about use of media by their children and adolescents,” the academy stated, and two-thirds of those questioned in the Kaiser Family Foundation study said their parents had no rules about how much time they spent with media.
Catherine Steiner-Adair is a Harvard-affiliated clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling book “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.” Her book review by fellow researcher, Madeline Levine, Ph.D. says it well, “Technology is changing our world and the world of our children at a blistering pace. Every parent struggles with the benefits and limitations of a perpetually plugged in lifestyle. Something doesn’t feel quite right and Catherine Steiner-Adair with great wisdom, and compassion for our confusion, helps lead us out of this technological thicket. She is a worthy guide, not simply pointing out stumbling blocks, but helping us find our way around them. A mandatory read for our own sake as well as the sake of our children.”
The Huffington Post posted a video worth watching on this topic. http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/the-big-disconnect-parenting-in-the-digital-age/52209d9c2b8c2a72fe00021d
When 90-95% of our brain develops in the first five years of our life, it is really important to use language, relationships, and emotions to connect us with our fellow human beings and the world around us. We are born with all the nerve cells we’ll ever need, they are small and mostly unconnected to the different parts of the brain. Over time, and dramatically so in the first five years, these connections are shaped by our interactions with the world. Before age 2, children should not be exposed to any electronic media.
Kids learn the electronic devise is a “co parent” teaching them to be engaged at all times, never be annoying or provocative, always be quiet and satisfied. When the studies disclose how similar our wiring is to screen technology, its not so hard to believe in a world that isn’t actually real.
A child can recognize the disconnect when competing with an electronic devise for parental attention. Loneliness, being secondary and less important, and having thoughts and feelings of being ignored are common disclosures made by kids in these studies.
Older children and teens should spend no more than one or two hours a day with entertainment media, preferably with high-quality content, and spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and “using their imaginations in free play,” the academy recommends. This seems almost humorous how far off this recommendation is by the experts compared to real use. And yet, Steve Jobs didn’t expose his kids to computers until they turned 6.
Heavy use of electronic media can have significant negative effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance. Those who watch a lot of simulated violence can become immune to it, more inclined to act violently themselves and less likely to behave empathetically, said Dimitri A. Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
In preparing an honors thesis at the University of Rhode Island, Kristina E. Hatch asked children about their favorite video games. A fourth-grader (9-10yr old) cited “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” because “there’s zombies in it, and you get to kill them with guns and there’s violence … I like blood and violence.”
Out in public, Dr. Steiner-Adair added, “children have to know that life is fine off the screen. It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people and learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life. They need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with other people, who can provide reassurance.” This teaches negotiating more complex, real time relationships.
In the city, we experience pedestrians and drivers exhibiting slowed or erratic behavior due to their attention being hijacked by electronics use. They show stunted awareness of others around them while they engage with their personal devices.
Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction. And yet, it is our future and will become more so. Will we adapt?
What You Can Do To Help:
- Keep the TV set and Internet-connected electronic devices out of the child’s bedroom.
- Monitor the media children are using, including any Web sites they are visiting and social media sites they may be accessing.
- Coview TV, movies, and videos with children and teenagers, and use this as a way of discussing important relationship values.
- Establish a family home use plan for all media. Set reasonable but firm rules about cell phones, texting, Internet, and social media use especially at meal time and bedtime.
- Discourage screen media exposure for children <2 years of age.
- Support laws that fine drivers for phone use and texting.
- Have a dinner party!!
- Send the kids on a Nature Scavenger Hunt. http://howtonestforless.com/2012/07/24/nature-scavenger-hunt-for-the-kids-free-printable/