Is Technology a Crutch for Distracting Our Kids?

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Is Technology a Crutch for Distracting Our Kids?

We’ve all done it: handed our smartphone over to our child to keep them occupied. Regardless if you consider it lazy parenting or part of their technological education, there is no denying that those brightly-lit screens hypnotise our child into the perfect child. They are quiet and still. Frozen.

Whether you hand over your phone to them while you’re doing the housework, or while you are grocery shopping, technology is a very effective distraction. But, is it beneficial to your children? And how does it affect them in the long run? As these issues have only gained traction (and even relevance) in the past five or so years, there have been no studies conducted on the long-term impacts of technology. For the most part, the presented opinions are mere conjecture: perhaps this will happen, perhaps it won’t. But how can you make sure that your kids are maintaining a healthy balance between screens and the real world?

Technology as distraction

Parents have always used something else to distract their children. Whether it was with a new Barbie doll, a colouring book, or a cardboard box, keeping your child occupied is a part of life. Phones and tablets have just made this even easier.

According to a recent survey, one in two parents admitted that they used technology to keep their children entertained during the school holidays. Around 42% have used technology to keep them distracted in the car, 39.8% while travelling on a holiday, and 39% while the parents were busy.

So, it is interesting then that the majority of parents (63.4%) who have admitted to using technology as a distraction, agreed that the pacification of children with technology is lazy parenting. But if we know that using technology is lazy parenting, why do we do it?

Technology in the car

You may recall when the first cars were released with TV screens on the back of car seats, like on an airplane. Whether you stuck your nose up at the idea or embraced it, the emergence of handheld devices has completely changed the game. 73.3% of respondents agreed that using technology to keep their children happy while on family trips was ‘heaven sent’.

Instead of opting to read books, play with their siblings, play I Spy, or singing along to the radio, children are barely looking outside the window. But why would they? They could be driving past a kangaroo, but they can see the same kangaroo on their tablet without lifting their head.

If you are driving for extended periods of time for holidays, set time limits on when your child can be on their phone or tablet. There’s always something interesting outside the window, even in the sparse Australian outback, and you don’t want them to miss out. Whether you spy windmills or sing along to ABBA, there are ways to help your child self-soothe while making family memories, too. Plus, breaks from technology will make it easier for them to sleep later on!

Technology while you are busy

The key to keeping your child occupied without technology is to give them other options. But, when you’re busy that’s the last thing you can think about. So, why not have a few toys or brain games in your purse for them? A small Rubik’s cube, a book of Sudoku, some drawing paper, or an etch-a-sketch are great alternatives to handing them your phone.

Just like babies, children need to learn how to self-soothe and occupy themselves. If we, as parents, are constantly instructing them on what they should do while they are bored, they aren’t exploring and discovering solutions for themselves. Maybe they finally pick up that book they borrowed from the library, or they play a board game with a sibling, it is important that technology is viewed as more than just a distraction tool.

Technology as education

Over 70% of parents believe that technology has helped their children develop faster, particularly when it comes to education. But for technology to fully help your children’s mental function, it needs to be through particular educational apps and it needs to be mediated. 91.9% agreed that by jointly engaging with technology and media can enhance learning.

Firstly, it is important that children are supervised on tablets and phones. This will stop them from accessing inappropriate material and will keep them focused on a particular task. Secondly, when your child is learning through an app it is difficult to know how much information is being retained. Whereas, if you are asking your child follow-up questions and engaging with them, they are more likely to retain the knowledge they are learning.

Technology as a crutch

Technology isn’t a crutch in and of itself. Rather, it only becomes a crutch when given to pacify children.

Gwen is a mother, daughter, wife & writer. Just one of many Wonder Women in the world.

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