Sunday, June 3, 2018

Children and Technology: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Is the Mental Well-Being of your Child on the Rocks? It Might be Time to Shut Down Their Devices.

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There are many things that scare me in this world.

Credit card debt, large bodies of water and consenting to terms and conditions of applications without reading them are just a few examples of things that send shivers down my spine.

However, nothing terrifies me more than the thought of pulling away an iPad from a small child. To the child it can appear as if you are asking them to sacrifice an appendage. Removing the technology from their grasps can lead to screams, tears and sadness – it’s almost too much to bear for any young parent.

The iPad, and technology at large for that matter, have been a ubiquitous part of the upbringing of the millennial generation. Youth from this generation demonstrate an almost innate ability to effectively use an incredibly eclectic range of technology – from everything to navigating the labyrinth of settings and menu options in applications to leveraging the Internet as a tool for joy, information and productivity. Clearly, it is safe to say that the youth of this generation possess an incredibly different skillset than the youth of generations past.

What’s the Problem?

Of course, the mastering of this ability comes at the price of countless hours of practice using these technologies. Adolescents are online more than any age group and constitute the first cohort to feature Internet communication as an integral part of their upbringing (Best, Manktelow & Taylor, 2014). Though this connectivity has led to a group of adolescents who can connect with friends across the globe or gather information at the tap of a finger, it hasn’t led to an improvement of the mental well-being of contemporary youth (George, Russell, Piontak, & Odgers, 2017).

In fact, increased technology use has been shown to have a positive correlation with increased symptoms of depression in adolescents, and ultimately, poorer mental well-being (Sidani et al., 2016). Despite having the world at their fingertips, adolescents seem to feel more isolated now than they ever have.

Unfortunately, depression is not the end of the struggles for adolescents who engage in heavy technology use. Increased technology use is associated with poorer self-regulation and an increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder symptoms (George et. al., 2017). Despite everything that technology offers, it is important to remain cognizant of the impact of excessive use on the mental health of our adolescents.

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What’s the solution?

I am of the mindset that technology is a wonderful tool when used appropriately and in moderation. However, technology’s ubiquity in society and youth’s unbridled affinity for its affordances has been both a blessing and a curse to the well-being of our youth.

It’s time to leverage technology for the better. Here are three things that can be done to help combat excessive technology use in youth:

1. Set Limits on Daily Technology Use
Impose strict limits on the amount of time that technology can be used each day. Specific age group recommendations are available here.

2. Encourage Youth to Engage in Alternate Activities
It is difficult to tell a child to stop spending their time playing video games when there is no appealing alternative for them to fill their time with. Creating technology-free options like family board-games or outdoor activities can help demonstrate the world outside of their devices.

3. Have Tech-Free Times
Dedicate times each day to eliminating any device use. Dinner time and bed-time are obvious candidates for technology-free periods, however any time – or day, for that matter – is an option for a reduction or elimination of devices.


Best, P., Manktelow, R., & Taylor, B.(2014). Online communication, social media and 
adolescent wellbeing: A systematic narrative review. Children and Youth Services Review, 41, 27–36.10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.03.001

George, M., Russell, M., Piontak, J., & Odgers, C. (2017). Concurrent and Subsequent 
Associations Between Daily Digital Technology Use and High-Risk Adolescents’ Mental Health Symptoms. Child Development.

Sidani, J. E., Shensa, A., Radovic, A., Miller, E., Colditz, J. B., Hoffman, B. L. & Primack, B. A. (2016). Association between social media use and depression among US young adults. Depression and anxiety, 33(4), 323-331.

1 comment:

  1. You offer some good solutions to a pervasive problem. As you stated, I think moderation is one of the best ways to address the issue. After all, we set limits for children when it comes to other potentially addictive activities. Just like any other privilege that parents allow their children, it's essential to be proactive by setting guidelines from the start. Once undesirable habits develop, it's really difficult to change them! For the same reason, it's critical that teachers provide students with clear expectations for tech use, too.