It turns out there may be some truth in the old saying “television rots your brain.” According to a recent study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, increased exposure to electronic devices during toddlerhood is associated with impaired developmental growth. With the rise of technology permeating every aspect of our daily lives, it has become rare to find an American household without at least one screen. In fact, recent data shows that only 16 percent of U.S. adults do not have a smartphone, computer or tablet, with over two-thirds of U.S. adults owning at least two of the three. Television ownership comes in at a staggering average of 2.3 television sets per household . This technology is not only utilized by adults, many of whom see television and mobile devices as harmless cures to their children’s boredom and discontent, but small children as well. How many of us have witnessed a wailing infant immediately hushed by a glowing screen?
While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one hour a day of screen time for children from the ages of two to five, the toddlers studied averaged two to three hours a day. The national average for all American children is a whopping five to seven hours per day. Longer viewing times in children aged two to three correlated with lower scores on tests observing developmental markers for problem-solving, communication, motor and social skills at ages three to five. Screen time was linked to further adverse phenomena, including less time spent sleeping and being read to by their parents.
Electronics have evolved to offer a variety of services that just decades ago seemed unimaginable, but they will never be able to replicate the acts beneficial to child development offered by interacting with other humans, playing outdoors and sleeping. For children, media should be a controlled and productive outlet to learn and enjoy positive and educational content, but it should not reach the point of consuming half of their waking hours. Hours of screen time should also never be the solution to a child’s boredom.
In our increasingly rushed and busy world, television and mobile devices are easy and low-effort sources of entertainment for children. For busy parents, it is often more convenient to plop their toddler in front of the television than to engage in creative play or reading time. To limit this occurrence, a greater emphasis should be placed on educating parents about the dangers of prolonged screen time for their children.
While advancements in technology have improved our society by creating a network with which to link our globe, the new world that is quite literally at our fingertips is not without its shortcomings. Time spent on the internet behind the safety of our keyboards and tiny screens has led to underdeveloped social skills and a reduction of human interaction. As the invention of the smartphone recedes deeper into the past, these habits are now being learned at a young age and have thus become increasingly characteristic of today’s youth. Children continue to be born into the world, knowing nothing but the technological age we now live in. Computers are becoming more and more essential for working adults and technology is a powerful tool for staying informed. In fact, this very article was typed on a computer. However, it is entirely unnecessary to indoctrinate children into this behavior at a very young age. If we do not take steps now to teach children to appreciate technology but still remain wary of overuse, we will inevitably create a society that is unable to reach its full developmental potential, choosing instead to become even more tethered to our computers and mobile devices.
Veronica Eskander is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.