(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Gabrielino High School

Opinion: Technology tangles childhood development

During an age of technological advancements, it can be easy to allow children to be consumed by the amassed amount of electronics that surround us daily.

According to a study conducted by Common Sense Media, 38% of children can fully function an iPad before they can even speak. However, parents should be more wary of when to introduce electronics into their children’s lives because of the negative effects they can have in the early stages of childhood development.

In 2018, Psych Central reported that 25% of children from the ages of 2 to 5 have a smart phone or tablet. The early introduction of technology to toddlers can disrupt emotional development and limit interpersonal interactions, according to the Florida Institute of Technology.

A primary way children learn is through observation, if they are constantly surrounded by technology, they do not learn how to deal with certain social situations. This problem evolves as the child grows, using technology as a diversion from issues within their life.

It would be different if the purpose of technology was to educate and enhance learning, but nowadays, parents seem to only use it as a method to keep their child busy.

Nancy Darling, a professor of psychology at Oberlin College, explained how using technology to entertain a child and stop them from crying can reduce their attention span. Children become adept at only paying “passive attention” when continuously watching a video or playing a game because they are not directly interacting with tangible objects like building blocks or stuffed animals.

“Long term, that passivity and lack of stimulation can cause serious problems,” Darling added.

Continuous use of technology during the early childhood years can lead to addiction.

According to Quartz, an online newspaper, technology can hijack the reward system of the brain, causing an excessive release of dopamine. This stress on the brain can inactivate the frontal cortex, the part of the brain controlling dopamine release and the sense of pleasure, resulting in addiction.

Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California told business publication Quartz, “It’s not a drug, but it might as well be. It works the same way… it has the same results.”

The earlier and more frequent children use technology can result in varying levels of these effects. These consequences have the ability to greatly impact how a child matures and interacts with the people around them.

PBS concludes that parents should wait until at least preschool to introduce technology such as iPads to their children in order for them to explore the world around them first.

When children use technology, it should also be for educational purposes, expanding their minds with games and apps such as ABCMouse.com. Supervision, guidance, and limitation are ways to use technology in a beneficial way and aid in the later development of a child.

Though technology may be useful in some cases, its impacts on the early stages of childhood development should be noted. Parents should wait to give their children tablets or smartphones in order to ensure development is not hindered.