How technology is ruining kids’ lives

How technology is ruining kids’ lives

How technology is ruining kids’ lives

Almost everyone knows that technology has transformed our society—from how we interact with others to how we express our feelings to how we view the natural world. But there is a different, more disturbing, impact technology is having on kids, which we don’t always talk about, because we don’t know how to cope with it.

Researchers are finally beginning to acknowledge that part of the problem is that we, as parents, don’t properly supervise our kids’ technology use. A lack of parental oversight has allowed many children to make fast friends with screen time addicts—and many kids to abuse screen time addiction. That addiction shows up in myriad ways.

Our screens are the new best friends for kids who would rather talk on the phone than go outside to play.

Kids come home from school or day care terrified of iPads. They can’t stay awake to turn them off.

Our screens are the new best friends for kids who would rather talk on the phone than go outside to play.

Smartphones are dominated by children—but older kids are also big users.

Even young adults don’t make good decisions with their phones: tweeting stupid jokes, looking at porn, or their phones’ cameras looking at porn. When pressed, most people say “it’s just technology.” But this dismissal of the dark side of technology is like taking comfort in a candy that’s unhealthy to eat.

But parents make the toughest call about screen time. Before having children, some actually set limits—for instance, on screen time or how long the internet should be used. It can be tough to enforce these limits, or even know what to look for—because, again, there is no simple set of rules. For instance, a popular Reddit thread and many parenting websites recommend setting limits for ages 3-8, though this is often misunderstood or misunderstood again.

But even if a parent takes these safety steps, the question still remains: what do you do with your own kids when the family turns to technology to help communicate? With many jobs requiring telecommuting, it’s no easy task to find a suitable place for a personal time out. Often, families use a technology-controlled cell phone to disconnect, chat, or socialize. The thing is, it only takes one friend to bounce a loaded question (“Mommy, why is your hand always sweaty?”) onto your screen, causing you to miss school, lose your job, or commit physical harm.

Technology is to blame for all of this. But let’s get back to why: contrary to popular belief, it’s not one product—the new smartphone or video-chatting keyboard—that’s largely to blame. Even the kids don’t care about one product. Instead, it’s our indifferent parenting that’s causing the damage.

We don’t need a stricter “tech addiction” laws for kids, or even school resource officers to deal with it. But all of us need to do a better job at establishing appropriate limits for our kids. Let’s get over ourselves and understand that everything goes bad when we are an over-screened parent, whether that’s internet addiction, bedroom drugs, overeating, or making CUTTING EDGE funny in the kitchen.

Anya Kamenetz (@AnyaKamenetz) is the founder and editor-in-chief of Voices.

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