The Physical Impact of Technology on Children

Frustrated boy using laptop computer
Encourage your child to take a break from the computer and take a walk with you. (Image: Polka Dot/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Advances in technology allow children to have Internet access through computers and cell phones. Even if a parent is diligent in limiting a child's time on those devices, TV, iPods, MP3s, DVD players and video games are waiting in the wings, vying for your child’s attention. Parents, teachers and health workers are questioning the physical effects that technology has on children’s lives.

Disadvantages

Even though children might be engaging their mind on a computer, the active participation of their body is limited. Some kids are prone toward obesity because of a combination of technology activity and physical inactivity. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 10.4 percent of preschool children and 19.6 percent of children ages 6 through 11 are obese. Some kids act out inappropriately physically, especially when watching violent games on TV. According to Craig Anderson of the American Psychological Association, “High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior.”

Social Skills

Not only does technology have the potential to turn children into couch potatoes, it can inhibit developing social skills, too. According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2010, multitasking has enabled today’s youth to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into the average 7 1/2 hours spent engaging with media devices. While kids growing up before the 1950s were encouraged to get outside and play with friends, children spending 7 1/2 hours a day on media-driven devices lack outside contact with peers, especially if they are already shy. Occupational therapist Cris Rowan states in the article, “The Impact of Technology on Child Sensory and Motor Development,” that “As little children develop and form their identity, they often are incapable of discerning whether they are the 'killing machine' seen on TV and in video games, or just a shy and lonely little kid in need of a friend."

Healthy Technology Habits

Developing a balance between technology use and physical exercise is an important habit from the time a child starts walking. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics in the article, “Media Education: What Parents Can Do,” the best role model you can provide your child is yourself. Make a habit of turning the TV off when eating dinner, eliminating computer use after a certain time each day, limiting the daily time spent video gaming and engage in some form of physical exercise together. Many parents find that signing up their child for a gymnastics class or recreational soccer team helps him take a break from the media devices available at his fingertips and also develop friendships with other kids. Show your child it’s OK to disengage from technology.

Using Technology to Help Exercise

Technology is here to stay unless you want to move your family to a cave. A healthy balance of technology with physical activity can be a bonus. Online videos provide instructions for just about any sport a child would want to participate in. Kids can watch the fundamentals of basketball and then go out and shoot hoops. Wii offers active video game participation in sports such as bowling, soccer and dance. Perhaps there’s no problem getting your child to exercise, but he won’t bike down the block without his favorite tunes playing. Maybe his passion is running and Google Maps offers him treadmill routes through exotic locations. Discover ways to match the best of both worlds.

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