How do new technologies affect children?
Today we live surrounded by electronic devices that absorb all our attention: tablets, smartphones, televisions, computers… This is not something cognitively beneficial for the human being, we spend many hours in front of these devices, which bring the world to our couch at home, but wouldn’t it be better for us to go out and see the world?
Surely more than one has been amazed at the great command that our children have over new technologies. The tablet has become one of the great allies of many parents . It allows us to keep our child calm while we are having dinner with friends, watching a movie, doing household chores or even on occasion they have helped us to manage a tantrum. But… how do these technologies affect our children?
The effects of technological distractions on children
One of our main tasks as parents is to calm our children , that is, to provide them with the necessary tools for an adequate emotional regulation in their adulthood. Children alone do not learn these skills and only through us will they manage to calm down.
This is certainly no easy task. Sometimes we’ll be the ones who are even more nervous than the child. What will be the result? That we will be passing on the discomfort to our child and he will not be able to calm down.
There are times when at this point of frustration we try to give them food, toys, the mobile phone or the tablet. To our surprise this works; all those sounds, movements, images and colors make our child calm down and therefore we do too. Because this has worked for us, we will start to use it every time we do not manage to calm our child down, becoming excessive use at an early age and in the middle of the child’s brain development .
All this makes us return to our calm, generates a series of negative long-term consequences on the child. What are the negative consequences of the use of new technologies on children?
We will not be connecting emotionally with what is happening to our child and therefore we will not be understanding him or helping him to resolve what has generated the tantrum or the crying. We will be teaching the child to regulate his emotions through distraction, so there will not be adequate regulation of negative emotional states.
Rewarding behavior that does not solve given
The little one will learn that to get what he wants he can do it through tantrums and anger . As a consequence we will not be encouraging self-control in the child nor his tolerance to frustration.
Imagine a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket because we haven’t bought what you asked for. It can be an uncomfortable situation. As we can’t calm him down, we leave him our mobile phone so that he can stay calm during the time we have left to buy. In this case we will be rewarding his behaviour and as I said before we will not be encouraging tolerance to frustration. The child will think: “well, they haven’t bought me those knick-knacks I asked for, but in exchange I’ve got what they rarely leave me”. He has to take no for an answer.
Slows down your learning
At early ages, symbolic play is especially important for children. This consists of playing with the idea of being a mother, a teacher or a doctor. Imagine feeding your doll or bathing him, that with a stick he finds he can imagine it is a toothbrush. This allows them to understand and interiorize the world they live in and around them.
On the contrary, television or video games do not allow this cognitive work, since there is no possibility of imagining and creating from what happens in the material environment.
In childhood the brain connections are still developing, and the use of screens is addictive . In this case, all the colors, movements and sounds that generate in the child are a kind of fascination, generating an over-stimulation in the child. That is why the child remains absorbed when he or she has one of these devices in his or her hands.
We may think that the child will be focused and attentive but the reality is that it is not. This is a passive attitude before new stimuli , generating a disconnection of the frontal lobe in the child, which is in charge of attention, planning, problem solving or working memory, all these functions being affected.
Encourage the little one
We will also be sending an implicit message that it bothers us in certain situations. A child will always be moving, talking, touching things, etc. This is something natural for children, what we will be doing with the tablet is “anaesthetising” their behaviour and preventing their cognitive development from taking place.
Gives them a form of escape
Sometimes children with emotional problems use technologies as a way of disconnecting . Video games allow them to be in a parallel and unreal world, in which they do not feel discomfort. This encourages the dissociation of children, that is, disconnecting from oneself and from reality, this being an avoidance response, making all the discomfort chronic.
In short, different studies have shown that the premature use of technologies can affect attention, learning, impulsivity, relationship problems, addiction and language problems.
How should we limit the use of technologies in our children?
First of all, we have to keep in mind that we are the role models of our children, so we will be the first ones to limit our own use of these devices . We cannot scold our child when he is using the mobile phone while we are eating, if we do the same. If our child is with us, it is important to leave the mobile apart and that time be with our child and attend to his needs.
It is important that there are no electronic devices in our children’s room. They should be in a visible place where we can supervise their use .
In consultation, I find many parents who put the TV to the children to make them eat. In my view it is important to remove the television at mealtimes. It may be eaten for as long as possible, and it is a time that can be shared as a family.
Today we know that children learn through real world experiences and through interaction with adults and their peers. All the experiences that the child can live in his daily life, all the interaction with nature, with play, a look, a smile etc, are those that mark his development and will be determinant in the history and development of his life. Of course this is something that is lost in the interaction with the screens.