Toddlers + Gadgets = Addiction, warn Experts
Educators and psychiatrists in Britain have reported that more and more kids are becoming dependent on tablets, and this is causing many negative effects.
Communications regulatory board Ofcom reported that households with tablet computers have doubled from last year’s figures. Psychiatrists also estimated that people who have become digitally dependent rose by 30% in the last three years. This has got teachers and doctors worried as iPad exposure has affected the physical and social development of infants and toddlers.
Experts said that children are often allowed by parents to use the tablets for four or more hours a day. This leads kids to show more uncontrollable compulsive behaviour, aggression, strain injuries and poor motor skills. They added that secondary negative effects include weight gain and lack of sleep.
According to members of Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), younger children are now losing dexterity on their fingers. Older children’s memories have also been affected by too much iPad.
During an ATL conference last year, Irish teacher Colin Kinney said that colleagues talk of ‘pupils who come into their classrooms after spending most of the previous night playing computer games and whose attention span is so limited that they may as well not be there.’
He added that pupils now have ‘brilliant computer skills.’ But this is overshadowed by ‘deteriorating skills in pen and paper exams because they rely on instant support of the computer.’
Meanwhile, Dr Richard Graham of the CapioNightingaleHospital in London said that children see their parents playing games in their iPads and copy them. However, he warned that ‘if you don’t get the balance right it can be very dangerous.’
Unlike adults, children can’t cope with addiction and start ‘reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behaviour when [the iPads] are taken away.’ He added that ‘as they grow older, the problem only gets worse.’
ATL teachers have issued a guide for teachers and parents on how to deal with children addicted to iPads. Doctors meanwhile are opening ‘digital detox’ therapy programmes for kids showing withdrawal symptoms. Experts have also called on parents to be models to their kids and to take practical measures, like turning off home WiFi at night, to ensure they do not get addicted.
Northern Ireland teacher Mark Montgomery said ‘In the same way we can use a brick to either break a window or build a house, digital technology can be used for good or bad.
‘It is our job to make sure that the technology is being used wisely and productively.’