Screen Time and Children: Friend or Foe?
In our technological age, it makes sense that our children have more access to electronics than we did as we were growing up. It can be a lifesaver when you are stuck somewhere for hours on end. Getting caught up in traffic, stuck in an overcrowded waiting room, or having to deal with a long phone call can make your small child impatient and agitated. Having a tablet or smartphone at your disposal can save your sanity! However, is having this entertainment miracle doing our children more harm than good?
When we offer our small children a screen to entertain them, we are only postponing the agitated behavior. We are teaching them that instant gratification and distraction are the answers to dealing with frustrating situations. Instead of dealing with the feelings they are having and learning how to handle them, they are allowed to push them aside and pretend they don’t exist. Children need to learn that it’s good to have emotions, and that as we grow older, we need to learn how to manage them. Otherwise we will have a generation of adults that have no idea how to handle themselves in a calm and mature manner.
Another reason that screens aren’t necessarily good for our children is the fact that they reduce meaningful socialization experiences. It’s easier to play a game or watch a program on a screen than it is to coordinate playing with a friend. Children miss the opportunity to problem solve and compromise with their peers when they don’t interact. They also get less time to practice speech patterns when they sit quietly by themselves. Children need that time to speak to other people to properly develop language patterns and enunciation.
Screens aren’t all bad. There are clearly some benefits to using tablets and smartphones with children. There are some wonderfully educational apps that can help children learn about all different subjects in a fun and interactive way. However, these apps should only be used with someone who can interact with them and help them learn at the same time. They should be used as a teaching tool and not a replacement for a babysitter.