One of the first discussions we had as new parents involved how we were going to introduce technology to our child. For my husband, a computer geek and career engineer, the immediate desire was to get his kid pushing buttons fast. Suddenly he was ready to change cell providers just to get a more rugged phone that could be gnawed on or dropped repeatedly.
Then I gave him a quick quiz. How much screen time is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for children 2 and under? If you answered anything greater than zero, you’re wrong. Sorry, worn out parents of toddlers needing distractions in the supermarket, handing them your iPhone may cause more problems than it solves.
Recent statistics from Canada show that while 70% of preschoolers met recommended physical activity guidelines, that number shot down drastically to 7% of 5-11 year-olds and a meager 5% of 12-17 year-olds. Why? Because these kids are hooked on screens. And who can blame them? Most houses today have at least 2 televisions, 2 personal computing devices, and 2 smartphones readily at hand. Is it any wonder that Great Outdoors Colorado is spending $25 million this summer to get kids “off the couch and outside playing”?
The grand irony in all of this is that Steve Jobs, the man whose company revolutionized smart technology, didn’t permit his own kids to play with iPads. Neither do most parents in Silicon Valley, who prefer sending their children to schools like Steiner Waldorf “which exclude screen time before the age of 12 in favour of physical activity, art and experiential learning.”
Like most millennial parents, my husband and I were raised in the era of the evils of junk food. Now our kids are being raised in the era of junk media. Despite AAP recommendations of no more than 2 hours daily, most children ages 3-18 spend a minimum of 4 hours a day in front of a screen. Too much screen time, even in the pursuit of social endeavors like texting or Tweeting, inhibits a child’s ability to read human emotions. An overabundance of screen time has also been linked to childhood obesity, irregular sleep patterns and behavioral issues.
Needless to say we aren’t switching cell providers any time soon. And when our kiddo notices mommy typing on the computer it won’t be a trigger for me to introduce them to the wonder of a QWERTY keyboard. It’ll be a reminder that my face and focus needs to be more on them and less on the machine. I have the feeling it’s going to be better — for all three of us.