For what it’s worth I am a bit of a luddite when it comes to technology, I’m fine with my Mac Book and iPhone but struggle to tune into Netflix. Children on the other hand have embraced technology and it has become a way of life to them, pre primary school kids are even getting their own cell phones and tablets are mandatory equipment at many schools. My son grew up in the bush, swam in rivers, walked in the veld and visited numerous 4×4 routes across Africa with us. He had a simple phone in high school out of necessity, watched TV and went through a few gaming consoles. We did however notice that although not obsessed he was very taken up with gaming. As he grew older the world added social media. Thankfully he graduated from Varsity before it became a compulsion. He now holds down a full time job and limits his time in the digital world.
More than ever I see youngsters becoming obsessed with gaming and social media, so much so that they even do their homework with at least two devices, often pausing to update Facebook or Instagram or send a Whats App – their world is becoming screen saturated and they are retreating from the outdoors. Some children only read compulsory school reading often on a tablet and never touch a real book.
So we cannot stop progress but we can learn to live with it and set boundaries. Going online delivers rewards and an almost cerebral pleasure, much like enjoying a good meal. Social media platforms have become addictive and generate urgency amongst users. But let’s not blame the kids, studies are showing that adults spend as much time on social media as kids do, many checking status before getting up in the morning. And those parents see themselves as good examples to their children. Constantly posting pictures of our kids will actually craft their digital personalities and reinforce the behavior. And then to keep them quiet while preparing dinner or taking a phone call we put them in front of a TV or give them a tablet to play with.
We use digital technology as a pacifier.
Then there are other dangers such as “Text neck” and “Repetitive Strain Injuries from using keyboards or a computer mouse. Social media can also lead to anxiety caused by a fear of missing out (FOMO).
Don’t get me wrong, apps and games can be valuable from an educational perspective as well, they impart knowledge and can develop spatial reasoning and problem solving. Tech has always had a bothersome effect, think back to inventions from ancient times, the Industrial Revolution, the automobile – in many cases these changes were not embraced by all.
As a parent you have to find that sweet spot and almost enter into a contract regarding the amount of time one can be exposed to social media and gaming.
Time would increase, as one grows older and need change but its great to know that youngsters can chat to grandparents of family who are away from home using Skype or Google Hangouts. It is also important to schedule “tech free” time in the home, this could be meals, while travelling and bedrooms should be designated as tech free as well.
A digital detox is a good thing; during the week children are active at school and participate in sporting activities as well. On weekends try to reduce trips to large malls, rather picnic, cycle or walk the dog as a family. Even go on a short hike or visit a beach if you are near the sea. Get outdoors as much as you can, ultimately the children will look back and appreciate it!