Media Monday – When Technology Takes Away A Childhood – Part 1 – Social Skills

Look how much grandma loves playing video games!

Upon seeing this advertisement you may be fooled into believing that the purchase of a new gaming console will result in the creation of happy family memories and togetherness. Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite!

Over the weekend I observed parents desperately trying to keep their children controlled and quiet in a restaurant. Most were playing with smartphones or a Nintendo DS type thing. It got me thinking. When I was a child and in an adult environment my mum usually handed me some paper and a pen. I would write stories and draw pictures.  Although occupied, I was still present enough to engage in conversation with the adults around me. These days it seems socially acceptable for kids to completely switch off from interaction with adults in favour of  plugging in to a gadget that keeps them quiet.

It’s tempting. Very tempting.

Last week I blogged about how many parents are addicted to technology and social media to the detriment of our children. But what about children and technology? Although most kids don’t use social media just yet there is no doubt they are becoming addicted to technology whether that be computer games, ipads, TV’s, smartphones or hand-held electronic thingos.

So, how does this impact our children? How does this impact their experience of childhood? Should we try to protect the aspects of our own childhoods that we cherished or just accept this new way of life and re-define childhood?

First, we need to acknowledge that technology can be an amazing and helpful tool for children. It’s not all bad. Like with everything, we need to weigh up the pros and cons and find a balance (or extreme!) that we are comfortable with.

So, here is part one!

Technology impacts children’s social development

The New York times recently published this article about a gadget, a guest & and a question of etiquette. The question raised was whether or not the use of gadgets at a playdate is appropriate or just plain rude. It details the experience of a mother who’s daughter attended a playdate only to find the little girl just wanted to play with her ipod touch instead of hang out with her mate.

When I was little and attended a playdate we played dress ups, built forts, danced to the locomotion and made up games about fairies. We swam, climbed trees and talked and talked and talked. Playdates were not only a great way to develop social skills they were also an opportunity to establish and build deep friendships.

I wonder what happens to the next generation if they miss out on valuable time where they could be learning the social skills of  sharing, waiting, listening, turn taking and negotiating? Skills that need quantity (not quality) time to be developed and mastered.

Is it possible that some children may lose their ability to interact politely or even appropriately with others? Is it possible that children may lose their ability to build deep friendships when time exploring and talking is replaced with comparing possessions?

Playdates aside, what happens when children play devices in the presence of adults? Will little Johnny get to hear great-grandpas war stories or will he be too busy playing Mario Kart? Will Susie miss out on Aunt Meredith’s encouragement because she prefers to go into another room to watch TV while mum explains that she’s just shy? Will grandma miss out on meaningful conversations and cuddles at the door because Cecil is distracted by his nintendo DS?

This isn’t about demonising technology. It’s about acknowledging that the use of technology has to be carefully considered and monitored. Its use comes with consequences that we may not see until much later in our children’s lives.

It is important to consider how technology can become something that distracts and takes children away from opportunities for meaningful social interaction both with peers and adults.

It’s important we understand its impact when making decisions about how much or how little technology we allow in our children’s lives.

So, stay tuned for part 2….

Why we may never know our child is a picasso! How technology impacts a child’s developing creativity



What do you think?

Have you seen how technology can impact social skills and behavior?

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