Nowadays, kids everywhere have access to a large number of electronic devices that were designed with entertainment, education and productivity in mind. If you are older than 25, it is very likely that you grew up without access to these type of electronics and that your childhood was very different from what kids from today experience. In fact, we can almost guarantee that you spent a lot of time playing outside, practicing sports, exploring and coming up with your own ways to entertain yourself without too much consideration for electronic devices other than the TV and the radio. Unfortunately, the availability of these electronics today has decreased the amount of time that children spend playing outside and it would seem like the creativity that was an essential part of our childhood is no longer needed. This is perhaps why, as a parent, you have thought about ways to regulate your kid’s use of electronics in order to encourage them to delve into other activities, but what are the pros and the cons of doing something like this? Should we just give up and accept the fact that the children of today are growing up in a very different world from ours or should we force them to enjoy other types of activities?
When it comes to this subject, there are certainly a large number of controversial opinions; let’s take for example an article posted to the Huffington Post titled “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices should be banned for Children under the Age of 12” The article argued that “stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies […] has been associated with attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate”. The article goes on to cite two studies performed in 2008 and 2010 but the studies themselves and the results drawn from those studies are not definitive by any means and there are several schools of thought when it comes to limiting the access to these devices for children.
While the results drawn from these studies are controversial at best, there is one harsh reality that we as parents need to accept and that is the fact that there is currently a childhood obesity epidemic affecting the nation; the access to foods high in sugar, simple carbohydrates and saturated fats has made it extremely easy for children everywhere to get their daily meals from a vending machine and the lack of physical activity –triggered in part by the availability to these electronic devices– have created the perfect conditions for children to become obese. In fact, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in teenagers over the past 30 years. If this trend were to continue, we would be heading into one of the most drastic epidemics of the last century. Fortunately, it would seem like parents, educators and government officials are aware of this and have created campaigns encouraging children and teenagers to eat right and to increase their levels of physical activity.
The more liberal parents, think that children should have unrestricted access to these devices and argue that the world has changed considerably in recent years and that children are no longer placing an emphasis on physical activity. They are also convinced that the use of these devices in the classroom and at home can help in the development of children and improve their grades while giving children everywhere an opportunity to access multimedia content and information that was not available to them anywhere else.
But what happens when children refuse to give up their electronics even for a short period of time? Should we force our children to engage in physical activities? Licensed Family Psychologist Esteban Espinoza thinks that there’s a case to be made for both sides of this argument; “the use of electronic devices such as tablets or portable videogames can help in the development of detailed observation, problem solving as well as increasing the tolerance to frustration. These types of activities, combined with physical activity performed outdoors may lead to a healthier lifestyle and can be extremely beneficial for boys and girls everywhere”.
Regardless of what side of the argument you decide to take, it is always a good idea to try and balance the activities your children perform on a daily basis; while it is amazing just how much content is available to children through these devices, it is important to remind them how important physical activity and socialization with other children is when it comes to their development.