Friday, October 07, 2016

This Is Sooo Wrong. The Rise of the "Techno Tot"

Steve Jobs didn't let his own kids have iPads. Plenty of other parents don't have Steve's reservations or his insights.

Psychologist Sue Palmer says that parents are using iPads as babysitters, even pacifiers, and their children are paying the price.

Along with colleagues in the field of child development, I'd seen a rise in prescriptions for Ritalin, a drug for attention deficit and hyperactivity - a four-fold increase in less than a decade. And we'd collected a mass of research showing links between excessive screen-time and obesity, sleep disorders, aggression, poor social skills, depression and academic under-achievement.

It's little wonder, then, that the boom in iPads and smartphones has coincided with further deterioration in the physical and mental health of children of all ages. Sadly, we're seeing the rise of the 'techno-tot' for whom iPads have become the modern-day equivalent of a comfort blanket.

Recent research found 10 per cent of children under four are put to bed with a tablet computer to play with as they fall asleep. One study of families owning them found a third of children under three had their own tablets. Baby shops even sell 'apptivity seats' into which a tablet can be slotted to keep toddlers entertained.

...It's not just what children get up to onscreen that affects their overall development. It's what screens displace - all the activities they're not doing in the real world. Today's children have far fewer opportunities for what I call 'real play'. They are no longer learning through first-hand experiences how to be human and are much less likely to play or socialize outdoors or with others.

...Real play gives children opportunities to learn how to cope with challenges for themselves. Finding how to learn from their mistakes, picking themselves up when they take a tumble and sorting out squabbles with playmates all help develop the self-confidence that makes children more emotionally resilient.

This is vital for mental health, especially in our high-pressure world. So I wasn't surprised when this month Childline warned Britain is producing deeply unhappy youngsters - sad, lonely, with low self-esteem and an increasing predilection to self-harm. The charity painted a bleak portrait of our children's emotional state, blaming their unhappiness on social networking and cyber-bullying.

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