Children nowadays use smartphones from an early age as parents feel these devices have many benefits. But can gadgets affect a child's emotional development and growth? Read on to know more.
By Varsha Venkatesh
Today parents are quite often willing to incorporate screen-based technology into day-to-day parenting. So, smartphones are used to occupy young children as part of the daily routine — while running errands, during car rides, while feeding and also, at bedtime. It even has its own term among parents and is known as the ‘shut-up’ toy.
However, indulging a child with a smartphone could lead to bad social skills later on in life. Using a smart device to divert a child’s attention or pacify her, could impede her ability to learn self-regulation. It may also hamper the development of emotional intelligence.
If parents constantly rely on smartphones to distract their children, it might affect their children’s ability to be resilient. They may also not develop the capacity to do things on their own.
Major concerns have been expressed over how preschool children use devices and gadgets for long periods of time, every day. And that this, in turn, has led to a drastic decrease in 'direct human to human interaction'.
Using smartphones at home deeply impacts your child’s emotional well-being. Thus, she may want to be left alone, avoids direct eye contact while communicating and, gets cranky or throws tantrums when you try to interact without the use of technology. This could be a serious red flag to watch out for.
Arundhati Swamy, counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programmes at ParentCircle, says "A child’s emotional development occurs best through interactions with people. We receive signals by observing a person’s eyes, facial expression, tone of voice, gestures, posture and the intensity of their response. The flat screen of a smartphone lacks the rich inputs critical for emotional awareness. Relationships are built on emotional connections. When a child uses a smartphone, especially to calm or distract himself, he becomes less aware of his own emotions, has inadequate skills to regulate them, and fails to connect meaningfully with other people."
Research, conducted by the American College of Pediatricians in November 2016, suggests strong links between excessive screen-time and obesity, sleep disorders, aggression, poor social skills, depression and academic underachievement.
Every parent wants their children to develop into socially well-rounded, physically fit adults, who are successful and lead fulfilling lives. But, where do we begin? The simple answer may lie in getting out and simply indulging in physical activities like running, climbing or even, playing hide and seek. When children play, they get the opportunity to form friendships too. This allows little children to gain physical and social skills.
Once children learn to experience boredom, allow them to spend time figuring out what they can do when they feel restless. In the real world, children constantly use their senses — sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. However, being on devices means that children are deprived of the hands-on activities important for the development of sensory-motor and visual-motor skills. Here is how you can keep your child engaged in healthy ways:
Show them. Remember that children don't hear and learn. They are very visual and more important, they imitate their parents. So, if on a daily basis, they observe their parents living in a world dictated by gadgets and technology, that is what they learn too. Which means parents need to take more responsibility towards what they do or not do, in the presence of their children. Parents need to lead by example.
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