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Hooked: A Look at the Effects Digital Media and Technology Has on Our Kids

Hooked: A Look at the Effects Digital Media and Technology Has on Our Kids and How to Address Them

By Dr. Wendy Rice, Rice Psychology Group

It’s that time of year again! For the holidays, my wife and I purchased a new laptop for our daughter and a tablet for our 14-year old son. We’re hoping that Chelsea’s laptop will help her with her advanced classes and Josh’s tablet will be really useful as he’s about to hit high school next fall. In the back of my mind though, I can’t help but think that maybe these new gifts will distract them with Snapchat or Facetiming instead of doing schoolwork. Am I overreacting or are these legitimate concerns? 

If there’s one thing that many of us deal with in this day and age, it’s getting lost in new forms of technology. How could we not? Smartphones can do so much and many of us just can’t help but sit down and, before we know it, an hour (or hours!) has slipped by. There isn’t anything wrong with giving your kids a few age appropriate tech gifts this year, provided as a parent you make sure your child doesn’t overdo it.

Infants (Under 18 months)
Baby and Technology According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children 18 months and under should not be exposed to any technology, or “screen time,” at all. At this age, children are very susceptible to what they see and hear, and overexposing them can have aftereffects that’ll make any parent worry.

Too much exposure to screens can also result in missing out on important bonding and attachment that happen in infancy. Making eye contact with babies and talking with them is critical to their development. If Mom or Dad is distracted by technology during feeding, changing and playtime, the effects on development can be profoundly affected. We support the recommendation to avoid exposing them to screen time, especially at this young age.

Toddlers (2-5 years old)
Toddler and Technology At this age, the AAP says it’s okay to expose your child to some screen time, but not too much. If anything, keep this exposure to less than an hour a day. It’s very important for parents to be extra cautious of what their young children watch or do when it comes to digital media.

Avoid gifting anything technology-related to kids in this age group during the holidays unless it’s something very educational and can easily be monitored by you. Keep in mind that young children and televisions are not always a great combination. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’ve decided to let your young ones indulge in some screen time:

Allow them to only watch educational programming. PBS, for example, has several series appropriate for young children, such as “Sesame Street.”
Avoid programs with too many commercials since these can be overwhelming to young children, and they don’t understand that marketers are trying to sell them things.
If dealing with smartphones, tablets or laptops, allow your young children to communicate to family members through chatting software like FaceTime or Skype. Doing this helps them form stronger bonds with long-distance relatives they rarely see in person.

Ages 6 and Up
Children and Technology We’ve come to the age where many kids either own smartphones or have easy access to the Internet or other time-consuming digital media. From ages 6 and on, parents can be a bit more lenient on how much digital media their children indulge in. We understand that teenagers love keeping up with friends through Snapchat, learning what their favorite celebrities are saying on Twitter and what’s trending on Instagram, but as a parent, it’s important to know when to step in to prevent overexposure.

Here’s a tip, allow your children the freedom of some screen time based on whatever time they have left over after schoolwork, physical activities or other family-oriented activities – usually short time periods toward the end of the day. Remember teenagers act very differently online than they do in your presence, so be sure and stay in the know about what they do on the Internet.

Kids need to be able to self-monitor their screen time to some extent. This means staying calm when it is time to turn off Minecraft or stop Snapchatting. Some kids struggle to be present in the real world when they are not connected online and others become irritable or downright angry when they can’t be playing their online games. Teach your kids that being able to stop doing something they enjoy and shifting to another activity is an important part of life. Their being able to do so without a huge reaction will make you, their parent, more likely to be okay with allowing them more time in the future.

Dr. Wendy Rice of Rice Psychology Group has been instrumental in bringing the 2016 documentary “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age” to the greater Tampa Bay community. She has locations in South Tampa and Carrollwood and Dr. Rice and her team treat include ADD/ADHD and other attention difficulties, family and relationship concerns, anxiety and phobias, depression and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Sponsored post originally published in the December 2016 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.

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