A couple notable studies regarding children and technology use were recently released. Both strongly suggest that when it comes to our kids and the time they spend engaging IRL (In Real Life) vs the time they spend gazing at screens…it's the screens that are winning.
From Influence Central’s “Kids & Tech: The Evolution of Today’s Digital Natives” released in May we learned:
The average age for getting a first phone is now 10.3 years old.
The percentage of parents who impose strict limits on where and when kids can use technology/electronics declined to 41% from 49% over four years.
While 85% of kids accessed the Internet from a room shared with the family in 2012, that number dropped to 76% today, and 24% now have “private” access from their bedrooms (compared to 15% in 2012.)
Most kids score their first social media accounts at an average age of 11.4 years old. The largest percentage of kids—39%—got their first account between ages 10 and 12, but another 11% got a social media account when they were younger than 10 (this, despite the fact that social media sites generally require users to be at least 13 years of age).
Meanwhile, Common Sense Media recently released: “Technology Addiction: Concern,
Controversy, and Finding Balance.” Among their findings:
59% of parents feel their teens are addicted to their mobile devices.
50% of teens feel addicted to their mobile devices.
This last statistic bears repeating:
HALF of all teens surveyed admit to feeling addicted to their mobile devices.
Are we hearing this?
Even though concern over children's tech “addiction” (not yet considered an official clinical diagnosis by the way) is topmost on the minds of most of the parents we talk to, societal pressures make it difficult for many parents to administer a “cure” or even instill preventative measures, despite all indications that kids could use their help.
Why Screens Are Winning
When teens say they feel addicted to their devices, they are right. Dopamine, the “feel-good chemical,” is released in the brain’s pleasure center when they're playing online games or accruing social media “likes.” On a brain scan this look the same as though the owner were “eating chocolate or winning money,” rather than just checking an Instagram feed. Additionally, studies are show that even a “regular” amount of screen time may be creating subtle and disturbing changes to young brains.
In Psychology Today’s "In Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain," author
Victoria L. Dunckley M.D. writes:
In short, excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills. Use this research to strengthen your own parental position on screen management, and to convince others to do the same.
So what can a busy parent do? Here are some ideas:
Ask yourself, does my young children really need or phone, or are you/they succumbing to peer pressure because everyone has a phone?
When you do give your young child a phone or computer, learn how to activate the built in parental settings. You also might want to check out 4 Ways To Set Up Parental Controls on Your Home Network.
Instill self-management skills in your child by setting strict rules and guidelines on technology use.
Practice and model your own self-management skills.
Arm yourself with knowledge.
This website is a good place to start.