Technology and childhood

Yesterday a friend of mine posted this article Why the iPad is a far bigger threat to our children than anyone realises. It spoke about all the things that I have said repeatedly in regards to using technology as a nanny for children.  For me personally, I will not be buying any of the stuff mentioned in this article for my children.  I don’t believe in parking children in front of screens. It messes with their social skills and attention spans. 

When the little girl pointed at the sweets at the checkout, her mother said: ‘No, they’re bad for your teeth.’ So her daughter, who was no more than two, did what small children often do at such times. She threw a tantrum.

What happened next horrified me. The embarrassed mother found her iPad in her bag and thrust it into her daughter’s hands. Peace was restored immediately.

This incident, which happened three years ago, was the first time I saw a tablet computer used as a pacifier.

I’m not a parent but I was once a child. I did not always get what I wanted. You know what? It is okay to not give your children everything they ask for.  In my opinion this is lazy parenting. I would have just ignored the tantrum.

Today, on average, children spend five to six hours a day staring at screens. And they’re often on two or more screens at once – for example, watching TV while playing on an iPad.

Because technology moves so fast, and children have embraced it so quickly, it’s been difficult for parents to control it.

You’re the parent and have TOTAL control over it. They don’t spend 5 to 6 hours staring at a screen if you don’t buy them. No TV’s in their rooms. Spend time with the family in the living room. Learn interpersonal skills and building family relationships.

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.

What happened to reading a book? Read a book to your child before they go to bed.  Does no one have time to nurture children anymore? Bedtime stories are where it’s at folks!

This is not the only worry. 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 socialise outdoors or with others.

Outdoors are full of fun! There’s rollerskating, learning how to ride a bike, sports activities, swimming. Bring your kids to a park and let them play with others. While you’re at it get off your phones and watch them, play with them, interact!

The change in children’s play has happened in little more than a couple of decades. While many parents feel uneasy about all that screen-time, they haven’t tackled it as they’ve been so busy keeping up with changes in their own lives.

You had the child it is your responsibility to raise the child. The tablet or TV is not a nanny. Parents’ feel uneasy about all the screen-time? The don’t allow it!!!!!!!

If the neural pathways that control social and imaginative responses aren’t developed in early childhood, it’s difficult to revive them later. A whole generation could grow up without the mental ability to create their own fun, devise their own games and enjoy real friendships – all because of endless screen-time.

This is a sad and scary situation.

Real play develops initiative, problem-solving skills and many other positive traits, such as a can-do attitude, perseverance and emotional resilience. It’s vital for social skills, too.

By playing together, youngsters learn to get along with other people. They discover how others’ minds work, developing empathy.

And, as real play is driven by an innate desire to understand how the world works, it provides the foundation for academic learning.

This. All of this.

Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield says: ‘We cannot park our children in front of screens and expect them to develop a long attention span.’

She also worries about the effects of technology on literacy. ‘Learning to read helps children learn to put ideas into logical order,’ she says. ‘On the other hand, staring at a screen puts their brains into suspended animation.’

Reading is so so so important.

Dr Aric Sigman, who has amassed a huge database of research linking children’s screen-time to ADHD, autism and emotional and behavioural disorders, also points to the conflict between screen-based activity and reading.

‘Unlike screen images, words don’t move, make noises, sing or dance. Ultimately, screen images render the printed word simply boring at a crucial phase when the child’s mind is developing,’ he says.

Reading is not boring if they learn to immerse themselves in the stories and let their brains imagine the worlds being created in the pages. The words on the pages therefore can move, make noise, sing and dance if their imaginations are allowed to develop.

Some say children need to use technology because that’s the way the world is going. But there’s no need to give little children high-tech devices.

Modern technology develops at a phenomenal rate – any IT skills that children learn before the age of seven will be long past their sell-by date by the time they reach their teens.

But self-confidence, emotional resilience, creative thinking, social skills and the capacity for focused thought will stand them in good stead whatever the future brings.

Learning how to be a human being stays with you forever. Technology is always changing.


Yes the irony is well noted by the following facts:

  1. This is an online article
  2. posted on an internet blog
  3. While I sit at a computer.

I’m an adult who grew up outside. I learned social, interpersonal, and academic skills. I was a cheerleader, did some gymnastics, played a little softball, loved the park, riding my bike, ice and roller skating, playing outside with my friends, swimming (still do), climbing trees, reading and going to school.  In fourth grade I joined a club at school that thought up ways to save the environment. By 5 or 6 I was riding a bike without training wheels. Around 7 or 8 I taught myself how to fix bike chains when they came off their tracking. I played with barbies and created their imaginative lives and styled their hair. Played school with my baby dolls, gave them all names, and wrote them down in an attendance book. My lite bright was awesome and so was the etch-a-sketch. I drew pictures. I loved art. Played with play doh. Loved legos (still do). Puzzles were fun and I remember many nights playing UNO with the family. Board games were the best! Some of the ones I remember include: Monopoly, Pretty pretty princess, Sorry, Trouble, Hungry Hungry Hippo, Candy land, Mouse Trap, Guess who, Operation, Perfection, Memory Cards, Mall Maddness and the list can go on… You get the point. We had video games but we weren’t allowed on them all day. We had bed times. We were parented. So I did my time 🙂 

**This is not a sweeping generalization about all parents. Least not from me. I apologize if it comes off that way.



7 thoughts on “Technology and childhood

  1. Totally agree! I worked with children in a School for 4 years. The amount of time spent on computer games was scary! Some didn’t go to bed until 5am and couldn’t concentrate in school. Children have access to technology far too early and far too long.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew up much like you describe your childhood.

    However, I am a mom. And I understand where you are coming from, but until you’re also a parent, I don’t think it’s fair to judge how others parent or even to say how you would parent. I don’t think you know how you’ll parent until you’re in it.

    I adore your blog and I don’t want this to sound personal — it’s not. I just feel that the other side of this is ignored and largely misunderstood, especially by those who are not parents, because they don’t know. They can’t know — and that’s fine.

    But I have to respond…

    “We had video games but we weren’t allowed on them all day. We had bed times. We were parented.”

    My kids have bed times. They do 90% of everything you listed above that quote. And my kids ARE parented. AND they use technology, undoubtedly more than some would think is okay. I’m bothered by the implication that I (or any other parent) am not parenting if my kids use too much tech. It’s not true…. and unless as noted above, you can say how you would parent if you were a parent, but you don’t know until you’re there.

    I had thoughts about how things would be before my kids were born, but there is a major adjustment period and very little of what you thought was going to happen actually happens. In my opinion, the reality is way better.

    Sorry, but I think most of the article quoted is crap — it’s a sweeping generalization and cannot be applied to all kids who use lots of technology. [And I have NEVER let my kids take any sort of tech or even toy to bed with them other than a glow worm when they were little and stuffed animals!]

    Absolutely ZERO of this quote is true for my children (and zero of the entire article, in fact):
    “linking children’s screen-time to ADHD, autism and emotional and behavioural disorders, also points to the conflict between screen-based activity and reading”

    My kids are 11 and 8. And they use technology a lot. It is what today is about, and this is not what times were like when I was a kid. I had to get up to change the frickin’ channel, for pete’s sake. We didn’t use technology all the time because we didn’t have it — not because our parents were better parents than we are! I LOVE technology… and I’ve been fascinated my every single advance since my birth. If what we have today was available when I was a kid, I would have been all over that shit!

    I do definitely parent my children. I do not give in if they have tantrums, but you know what? They don’t because I have been parenting them to the best of my ability from day one. I do not hand them a computer or a tablet or a smartphone or even the television to get them out of my hair or to pacify them if they are cranky. They need to respect my decisions. And they do. (And they do not have anything more technology advanced in their bedrooms than an alarm clock.)

    My kids read. They’re great at math. They love school. They excel at it. They play outside when they can, but things are VERY different from when I was a kid. I would go off with my sisters and my parents wouldn’t see us for hours at a time. But they knew we were good kids and we’d be fine. And we were. But now, today, these times we live in, I cannot let my kids out of my sight for a moment for fear that they will be kidnapped or killed or God knows what else.

    While it may seem (especially to non-parents) that parents today let their kids have too much freedom with screentime so they don’t have to “parent”, I think in pretty much every way (except for physical activity), this is the exact same thing as my parents telling my sisters and me to “go outside and play” to get us out there and let the bike or the sidewalk chalk or the swings “parent” us for a while.

    Today, as parents, we cannot just tell our kids to go outside and play… unless we are beside them… and that is not always possible. We live in a very different world today. Telling my kids to go outside and play without me accompanying them is a far far worse example of “not parenting” or “bad parenting” than letting them play some video games. They are not going to be kidnapped, raped, murdered or have drugs pushed upon them from playing a video game. But outside without supervision like when I was as a kid? Bad idea. Because this shit happens more than I care to think about. And it happens everywhere — I live in a safe area but it hardly matters these days.

    I do think parents may be failing if their kids have tantrums and they shove something in their face to quiet them, whether that something is an ipad or a chocolate bar. That is a separate issue. It’s a parent not dealing with their child’s behavior. And that has nothing to do with the ipad or the chocolate. But, honestly, even if this situation, we cannot know what is happening in their lives. Maybe the parent cannot be bothered. But maybe their kid is in therapy and trying to improve but he/she isn;t there yet. We cannot know… (unless we’re at WalMart… then we know. 😀 Hahaha – just had to throw in a little levity.)

    Sorry for the huge comment, but I do not think people understand WHY parents today cannot parent the same way their parents did it. Times have changed. Drastically. I guarantee that when I was a kid, my parents never worried about some nutball storming my elementary school with a gun killing everyone in sight. I guarantee they never would have even imagined such a scenario at all.

    Letting kids use technology does not mean you’re a lousy parent. And by the way, my kids do not have their own phones yet… but they have friends at school who do — yes, in 2nd and 5th grade… some kids have their own smartphones. It is far more common than I thought. And their friends also talk about their x-boxes or playstations or whatever (we do not have any of those… when my kids play video games, it’s on an old desktop computer or a retro Atari set they got from Santa).

    Sorry also because I don’t want to piss anyone off. I just think this is important and felt that I had to speak up. I don’t think it’s fair for me to be told I’m “not parenting” or “not parenting properly” because my kids use technology way more than I did as a child. Because I think that’s crap. My kids are very smart, straight-A students who have friends and go to parties and play inside and out, love all things art/creative and build LEGO masterpieces (not just what the instruction book says, but that, too). We play board games and do puzzles. My daughter walks around with her doll “babies” all the time, playing school, even sometimes with Ninja Turtles as students. My son makes sound effects with is Star Wars guys (among others).

    For crap’s sake, my 11-year-old son’s current favorite computer game is a math game where you do math problems to advance. A site he heard about from his teacher!

    They are well-rounded. They do not have any learning or neurological deficiencies. They do not have social deficiencies. Basically, they do not have a single negative thing quoted above. They create their own fun all the time. They love art and all things artistic. AND they use technology… every day… probably for longer than some think they should. The supposed negative effects are not a given.

    It’s no different than my cousin, struggling with her weight, is told that she must have diabetes or heart disease or a ton of other things… just because she is overweight. Overweight is a risk factor, but that does not mean she is guaranteed to get any of those conditions.

    Excessive screentime is a risk factor, MAYBE (I’m not even sure I agree) for some of the conditions mentioned in that article, but they are NOT a given. Not even close.


    • Totally was not meant to come off as a sweeping generalization of all parents and I apologize if you took it that way. Everything in moderation is my stance. I think this article was geared towards technology being used as a babysitting tool. Least that’s how I interpreted it. I think parents have more control over their kids use of technology than this articles makes it seem that they don’t. I suppose that was my point. Not all kids are like yours where they are both on technology and go outside and “real play.” I’m not a parent but I am an aunt and part of my response is based off how my nephew is. I know I won’t know or understand until I have kids. I’m not naive to that fact. I’m confident however that I wouldn’t let them on for large amounts of time. Moderation is the name of the game in everything 🙂


  3. Despite my rant-ish novel, I definitely am not directing my frustration at you. 🙂 Sometimes I just get riled up… [Sorry!]

    And I get really irritated by so many of these articles. I honestly do not know how many hours my kids use technology in a day… and I am certain that someone will think it’s too much and that I use it to parent them — not to fix a tantrum, but sometimes they are using tech while I am. [And sometimes they’re rebuilding that LEGO house for the 20th time.]

    Also… how, exactly, can I say no to them when my laptop is practically attached to my lap and/or my phone is never more than arm’s length away?! 😀 😀 I do tell them that it’s different — they are kids and have a lot of learning to do that I’ve already done.

    But I’m sure they roll their eyes when I’m not looking. I set a poor example! My own techtime is excessive, according to someone, I’m sure! I mean, hell, I write. And I blog. And I’m looking for a job. And I get text messages. And use my phone as a calendar/reminder. I am “on” all the time! I don’t know how I could not be, you know?!

    Liked by 1 person

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