Why Young Children Should Not Have Smartphones or Tablets
My children are now in their 20s and 30s and didnʼt face the same challenges with smartphone and tablet overuse that young children are confronted with today. My only concern 10-to-20 years ago was how to limit the number of texts they were sending. Fast-forward to 2020, when social media apps like Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok, and YouTube help children use four to five times the recommended amount of technology. Elyse Wanshel, a senior writer at LittleThings.com, has come up with 10 reasons why you should not give a young child a smartphone or tablet.
It can change the child/parent relationship. A parentʼs voice, touch, and, eventually, play can help build pathways in an infantʼs brain that aid them in learning how to bond emotionally with other people. But for children who spend too much time interacting with a screen, something different happens. Their neural pathways change and different ones are created. It affects concentration and self-esteem, and in many cases they donʼt have as deep personal relationships.”
It becomes their first addiction. Smartphones and tablets allow children to get whatever they want immediately. It does not teach moderation, impulse control, or how to challenge themselves. It sparks tantrums. If someone has an addiction, they will throw a fit if you take what they are obsessed with away from them—at any age. Giving a kid a smartphone or tablet to pacify them when they are having a tantrum isnʼt a great idea either.
It prevents them from sleeping. The light emitted from a screen suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin, and shifts the bodyʼs natural sleep-wake cycle. According to Boston College research, 75 percent of children aged 9-to-10 years are sleep-deprived to the extent that their grades go down.
It affects their ability to learn. A smartphone is harmful to a childʼs ability to learn because it distracts their attention. They replace the hands-on activities important for the development of sensorimotor and visual-motor skills, which are important for the learning and application of math and science. Video and online games also limit childrenʼs budding creativity and imaginations and slow their motor and optical sensory development.
It doesnʼt allow them to reflect on their actions. Itʼs easy to say something bad about someone behind their back, but itʼs certainly not so easy to say it to someoneʼs face. You can see their hurt facial expression and feel their pain, forcing you to reflect and feel remorse. But if you say it online, all of that goes out the window. You canʼt see voice inflection, body language, facial expression, and even feel pheromones (released during face-to-face interaction). Real communication is not just about words.
It increases the likelihood of mental illness. Because itʼs easier to be emotionally detached when online, more people are cyber-bullied. There are also endless images and forums online that can make a developing child or teen feel uneasy about their growing body. According to experts, too much time on smartphones or tablets has been a factor in rising rates of child depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, attention deficit disorder, psychosis, and problematic child behavior.
It can lead to obesity. We are often stationary when we use a device, so if a child is addicted to one, they are not moving while they use it. That means limited physical activity, which increases the likelihood of weight gain. Children who are allowed a device in their bedrooms have 30 percent increased incidence of obesity, according to one study. Some experts believe that 21st- century children may be the first generation that will not outlive their parents, due to obesity and high use of tech devices.
It makes them aggressive. Because kids canʼt learn empathy when overusing devices, they are much more comfortable being mean online, and being cyber-bullied almost feels normal to a lot of kids. There is also a huge variety of violent video games that desensitize kids toward violence. This mainstreaming of aggression prompts kids to think that violent behavior is simply a normal way to deal with and solve problems.
It encourages social anxiety. Learning social skills is imperative to a childʼs overall success. If they are nervous interacting with other people, it may hamper their ability to be the best they can be. Kids need face-to-face time. If they abbreviate their emotions with technology, theyʼre living an abbreviated life.
Jim Witous is the proprietor of caféMac, a technology and social hub in downtown Sonoma.