As technology use has increased over the past decade, so have the number of concerns from parents about how it impacts the development of children. From cognitive and learning concerns to social and emotional concerns, parents and professionals are right to question the impact of something that consumes the time and energy of so many children. While there are certainly social benefits to digital device use and media consumption, concerns arise when excessive time spent on devices detracts from time spent engaging in and benefitting from in-person interactions and developmentally necessary activities.
Pros of technology for children
The good news is that not all technology use is bad. It can be used to bring people together, and this is certainly the case for children and teens as well. Many report that use of social media platforms, texting, and other apps allows them to stay connected to peers they know in real life. It also can foster the development of friendships with peers around the world who have shared interests and goals. Children with social anxiety disorders, who often struggle with engaging in social interactions in person, may find that social media platforms improve social interaction skills and gain confidence with social communication in a more comfortable way. Social support groups online also allow children to share their experiences and receive encouragement and guidance that may not be available to them in their local community.
Negative impact of technology
Technology overload can have serious consequences for your child, including:
- Physical limitations such as low muscle tone and weak core muscle development, gross motor problems and obesity.
- Reduced cognitive abilities including poor problem-solving skills, limited lateral thinking ability, lack of imagination and concentration issues.
- Social problems such as weak interpersonal skills, impatience and a constant need for instant gratification.
What can parents do to encourage healthy social development?
- Be a role model of healthy device habits. It is critical that parents spend enough quality face-to-face time engaging with children to support healthy social and emotional development.
- Enforce time limits on devices and digital media using parental control apps like Qustodio. They help ensure your children have a balance of screen time and non-screen time activities, and enough in-person social engagement to allow for healthy development and prevent isolation and loneliness.
- Talk regularly with your children about their relationships with their peers. This can help identify concerns about a lack of real-life relationships as well as the social benefits a child perceives from their online activities. It can also help you be aware of inappropriate content or cyberbullying that may be negatively impacting your child.