Kids And Technology

“My son at 18 months can use my i-phone”

“My 18 month girl won’t eat till she is made to watch Tele Tubbies”

“My girl at 14 months can put on my locked phone via emergency call and select my number through speed dial”

Kids And Technology

Such comments are fairly common. On one side, parents gushing over their child’s achievements and capabilities (why shouldn’t they as they rightly credit themselves for all of this) and on the other hand a discussion everywhere on the right age to introduce them to technology and media.

I am sure every parent has an opinion on the same and most will say that kids today need not be taught; they pick up things so fast on their own.

I have several parents coming to me asking is it safe to let an infant look at a mobile/ tablet/ laptop for long. Most of them are thinking of somehow delaying child’s exposure to mobiles/ computer/ television.

A kid of 4 was brought to the clinic with the complaint that he had turned violent in previous six months. A detailed history and ticking off one factor after another made us conclude that he had started using one of his elder brother’s video games, which could be classified as violent. Now it was difficult to make him let it go. Required 6 months with a counselor and finding alternate channel to dissipate the extra energy by hooking him to photographing the nature.

Before any of you decides and delays child’s exposure to technology, I would like to share an important insight: I was researching the cause of such wide spread stress in modern life, when I chanced upon Alvin Tofler’s Future shock.

  • In 1970, the American sociologist Alvin Toffler predicted that the rate of change in modern civilization would accelerate to such a degree that enormous numbers of people would experience shattering stress and disorientation. Toffler described this condition as FUTURE SHOCK. Human biological evolution is lagging behind developments in technology and lifestyle.
  • Physiological and psychological stress emerges as a result of a growing deficit between daily demands and coping resources.
  • Human biological evolution is lagging behind developments in technology and lifestyle.

The technology has advanced at a much faster pace than intelligence of homo sapiens.

Technology involves, use of phones, hand held devices like tablets, computer and television. Several guidelines have been issued in the western world regarding kid’s exposure to technology and media. We are fortunate that today’s generation is keeping pace with fast technology and are not likely to feel ‘inability to cope’ syndrome that earlier generations went through. I know of several senior doctor’s still shying away from regular computer usage.

I list few important studies:

– Kids below 5 have an uncanny ability to self-learn how to master new technology, says a BBC report

– Ethiopian kids, who have never seen a printed word master using a tablet in 2 weeks. Read

– ‘Passive’ TV exposure can harm kids’ speech development. Read

– Video Games can lead to Violent Behaviour in the child. Read

Some caution while exposing kids to technology:

– Is technology sapping children’s creativity? Read

– Overexposure to technology ‘makes children miserable. Read

The most difficulty is faced by parents who themselves are not very tech-savvy and are simply awed seeing their kids master technology. This awe and their lack of knowledge make ‘parental control’ impossible paving the way for over exposure and likely adverse effects.

Ultimately, individual parents have to decide and set limits for access to such devices ensuring parental control till they reach at least 15 or till they have been spoken about birds and bees.

Just like freedom, being a friend and not a parent, pampering even exposure to technology is a double edged sword and one has to be extremely watchful.

Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post-graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.

  • agree with everything you’ve said but as a new parent it’s easier said than done. for example tackling peer pressure is going to be a big battle for me I can see that.
    I try and read old fashioned books to my 9 month old but he is drawn to my ipad, laptop, and iphone and it’s a stay at home mom’s lifeline so I cannot not use these things.
    when parents are hooked on to technology, how do we stop children?
    plus nursery rhymes, songs, and baby games on ipads really help parents to keep children as young as 6 months occupied. when you start that early how do you stop?

    • “when parents are hooked on to technology, how do we stop children?
      plus nursery rhymes, songs, and baby games on ipads really help parents to keep children as young as 6 months occupied. when you start that early how do you stop?” – I second this doubt, completely, Aloka.

      • The most harm is done by parents glued to mobiles when they are tending to the kids – feeding, teaching, playing etc. This sows seeds of kids behaving similarly when they grow up and totally ignore those around.

    • Don’t ever think of stopping. Monitor and ration it. My grand daughter has been taught how to shut down a laptop and put it back in the case. Now when she is told Nishtha, enough Na! She nods and shuts it off.

  • drSNRao

    Yes! It is something we all need to stop & think. Are we unknowingly getting our kids hooked on to technology. If that is so we need to use them discretely,for our presonal need, & not volutarily overdo the exposure.My child can use Ipad,Tablet….. only pampers the parent’s ego more than anything else.Like talking to our baby in the mother tongue, encouraging eating healthy home food & fruits and veggies,minimizing television & computer viewing in the kids, a conscious minimal exposure of the kid to technology should be the dictum at home .Agreed! its difficult.Yielding to peer pressure in such matters is not an excuse.The child will eventually learn it once he is exposed to the world outside his home so where is the need to hurry!

    • Yes, Dr Rao. Child will be under peer pressure to do lot of wrong things (bunking class, smoking etc). Parents have to build a robust communication channel so that child doesn’t succumb to peer pressure.

  • “The most difficulty is faced by parents who themselves are not very tech-savvy and are simply awed seeing their kids master technology. This awe and their lack of knowledge make ‘parental control’ impossible paving the way for over exposure and likely adverse effects.” – Very interesting. Never thought of it this way. However, as a parent to a 2-year-old born through and into a world of technology, I am still getting my bearing right as to where, if at all, I may be able to draw a line.
    Thank you for a very informative and thought-provoking post.

    • Thanks. It is difficult but a line has to be drawn else they will need a calculator for 2+2! 🙂

  • Yes. It is the parent who needs to control. If we are not so caught up in mobiles, TV, internet and tablets, I don’t think our kids would. I try to limit my screen time (on laptop and mobile) in front of my son.
    There are two things why kids are so expert at handling new-age gadgets – kids are smarter and technology is incredibly user-friendly. We gush over it because it wan’t so in ‘our days’. The other thing is we cannot completely remove technology from our and our kids’ lives because technology is going to be an integral part of education too.
    However, I strongly believe that there is an age for everything. Recently, my nephew (7 year old) was visiting and he wanted to play on my husband’s Playstation. I reminded my husband that he needs to be careful in what games he gives him to play. Most of the games are violent. It is also such a common phenomena to find little kids watching all kinds of programs on TV (crime-based serials, etc) with parents / grand parents. I find that practice extremely alarming. I have written about it here: http://www.parentous.com/2013/06/26/grandparents-raising-grandchildren-have-we-discussed-how-to-raise-our-kids/

    • Reema, it’s nice that you try and limit your laptop usage. but you are a blogger, so am i. we spend time on out laptops. how then do you manage not to do it in front of him?
      i am going to make an effort though to try and limit my usage at least in the presence of my son.

      • Since I am the only one around with him, I am forced to limit my online time otherwise my son will be hanging by my legs ha ha! I am online when he sleeps – afternoon and post 9 pm. Therefore, I sleep late and wake up late…sigh! But can’t do anything about it, for sometime atleast.
        But yes, we need to be aware how much time we are spending online in front of our kids. That is important.

      • Aloka/ Reema
        Easiest is to tell the kid “momma is working. She works from home. She will be free in 1 hour.” This way they accept that laptop is for work and not to play games.
        In my house when I got my 1st 486 machine in 1995, I decided my computer will not have games. To this day all the comps, laptops, tablets in our house are devoid of games.
        Kids have to be taught by examples. If parent/ grand parent plays solitaire endlessly in front of a child, the child knows it is a plaything,

        • Thanks this is really helpful advice !

        • Helpful tips indeed. The heart of the matter, like everything else, is that kids are going to imitate us. I never play games either on mobile, laptop or my tablet. I have never even played snakes on the good old Nokia. I haven’t allowed downloading any sort of games on my laptop. But that’s my nature. I am into reading / writing. On the other hand, my husband always plays on everything (add the Playstations too). But we rarely indulge in front of our son. I wonder when will he start accepting that Mumma should be allowed to work in peace for sometime! He always catches me when I try to steal few minutes on my laptop, when I see that he is engrossed in his books or toys. I NEVER put him in front of TV to finish off chores because I know it is going to backfire on me. He is one month short of 2 years, by the way.

          • Just continue talking to him, as if he is big, asking him ‘how can momma work if she does not get time?’ etc
            Mothers are best innovators and always end up winners in doing whatever they decide to. I am sure you also will find a way! & when you do, share with all.

    • Yes. & this dictum, ‘there is a age of everything’ is the best to inculcate discipline. I recall when my daughters were 15, 17 & 19, the youngest once complained if B (19) can stay out till 10, why I have to be home by 8? I said H (17) is allowed till 9. There is a time for everything. You will be allowed when you are 10