Believe it or not, every generation complains about “today’s youth” being “out of control.” But, what drives me nuts about this is that many people claim that the reason children are “out of control” is due to a lack of spanking/hitting children.
The reality is that between 70-90% of parents still admit to spanking/hitting their children. Obviously, corporal punishment isn’t helping at all. And since there are a huge array of harmful effects of corporal punishment, it will never help children to be more respectful.
I believe that in addition to children being treated harshly there is another huge reason why today’s society and youth seem so disconnected. Technology!
Yes, I said it, technology is one of the reasons why our society is so disconnected. The very thing that is supposed to keep us more connected is actually tearing apart human interaction. Go to any public place and observe the people. I can guarantee that the majority of the people are looking down at a screen instead of interacting with each other. Couples at a restruarant text or update their Facebook statuses instead of talking to each other.
What is even sadder is that I recently heard on the radio that children are getting hurt more often at playgrounds because their parents are too busy staring at their phones to even hear their children calling for help.
Here is an interesting study from an Exchange Everyday email:
“‘A new Chinese ad campaign illustrates the way smartphones can affect family life and relationship,’ reports The Huffington Post “Titled Phone Wall,” the campaign by Ogilvy & Mather China is a literal representation of the barriers to human relationships that screen addiction creates.’
Juggi Ramakrishnan, Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather Shanghai, told The Huffington Post, ‘We want people to see [these ads] and rethink their relationships with others and their phone in a different light. This is a definite pressure point that Chinese society is facing on its path of rapid development.’
‘This pervasiveness has the potential to be especially detrimental to families with kids,’ says Ramakrishnan. ‘There is an alarming trend of parents ignoring their children of all ages, paying more attention to their phones and tablets than their immediate surroundings. Consequently, children may feel they aren’t getting the attention they need…. Addiction to mobile devices can put a strain on romantic relationships as well, as partners may become less responsive to each other’s feelings and have fewer meaningful interactions.'”
This addiction to technology starts way too young in this society. There are now bouncy seats for infants that hold iPads for the infant. I’m sorry but as an early childhood professional, this really disturbs me. Infants and young children need lots of human interaction as well as using real toys such as balls, blocks, plastic dishes, dolls, trucks, cars, musical toys, push toys. Manipulating concrete items and having real experiences are absolutely crucial to healthy development. By giving an infant an iPad, the infant is going to be more interested in the iPad as a whole because their brains don’t truly understand what’s actually happening on the screen. Too much screen time can actually hinder development. A toddler should be able to do a range of fine motor activities, not just swipe on an iPad or phone!
Also, infants absorb and are affected by everything in their environments. It’s much better for a baby’s brain development to have music playing in the background rather than a TV. Another thing is that we are almost constantly exposed to violence thanks to the media. This is desensitizing us to violence and so many other disturbing things. Besides sex, violence is a common theme in our movies, television shows, music, and videogames. Plus, the news is constantly reporting acts of violence. We are so much more aware of violence whereas prior to when media was so prevalent people were not as exposed to or aware of the violence that was occurring and they could shelter themselves and their children from it because there was no television or Internet.
Children didn’t watch cartoons or play videogames filled with violent images like they do today. Because so many parents have to work full-time in order to survive today, children are being left alone with all this access to violent media with little guidance from busy, stressed out parents. Research shows that all of this exposure to violence is desensitizing children and adults to violence. Greven (1992), page 129, states:
“Research has demonstrated that television must be considered one of the major socializers of children’s aggressive behavior. Two major behavioral effects of heavy viewing of televised violence are: (1) an increase in children’s level of aggression; and (2) an increase in children’s passive acceptance of the use of aggression by others. Both aggression and apathy thus are intensified by an immersion in television violence although the roots of both undoubtedly are to be found in the life histories of punishment and abuse of those who view such violence with either indifference or enthusiasm.”
All this being said, I do understand that there is a time and a place for technology. If a parent or relative is far away, using Skype or FaceTime to help them see the child is perfectly fine. And once children become preschoolers, it’s ok to slowly introduce them to technology.
It’s just important to naturally limit technology by having plenty of other activities for children to do. This way, too, by not putting much focus on technology, we can avoid power struggles when it’s time for them to put it away. Always allow children to finish the game they’re playing or show/movie they’re watching before having them move on. I love this article by Janet Lansbury regarding introducing and limiting technology with toddlers. We need to be present while our children are using technology to protect them from all the evil things and people lurking on the Internet.
And, of course, technology is a must for children with special needs/disabilities. With my severe cerebral palsy, technology allows me to write and communicate with others whereas I otherwise would be unable to do so. Amateur radio is another great use of technology. It allows people to talk to each other over the airways.
In sum, technology definitely has valid uses. However, we need to stop allowing it to consume our lives. We need to be totally present with our children and intentionally interact with them throughout the day. Children should not have to compete with technology for our attention. Technology cannot substitute actual parenting. Nor is it fair to only interact with our children to spank/hit or otherwise punish them.
Do you want children to be kind, empathetic, and not self-entitled? Put down your phones, tablets, laptops, and other consumer electronics and model how to interact with people. Talk with your children. Let them see you actually watching them play. Stop spanking/hitting them and discipline (teach and guide) them. If you are a Christian, make Jesus the focus of your home rather than technology.
Greven, P. (1992). Spare the Child. New York, NY: Vintage Books.