“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”
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.