Don’t let your kids get addicted to technology

It’s very tempting to keep kids occupied with mobile devices.

You’ve vowed that you’re never going to allow your kids to become glued to their phones or tablets, the way other young children seem so dependent on their devices.

Well, that’s until you have children of your own and are struggling to get enough rest, or a quiet moment to disconnect or focus on adult conversations around a table.

This is why those who don’t have kids often hear the remark, “Just wait till you have kids. Then you’ll understand! Kids are hard work and you need to constantly ‘entertain” them.

Undoubtedly, the learning tools and games are boundless online but they come at a price, if usage is excessive.

Apart from eye-strain or postural issues, you need to be aware of the implications of allowing your kids to get lost in the enticing and addictive world of technology for long periods of time.

Rapid fire processing for young children leaves fewer mental resources for comprehension and retention (David Walsh, PhD – Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids).

According to the New York Times, the brain loses its capacity to attend fully and gradually to anything. So multi-tasking is actually negative for your child’s intellectual development.

The mental habit of dividing your attention into many small, different portions has significant implications for the way young people learn, reason, socialize, do creative work and understand the world.

This growing problem is called the “attention deficit trait” by psychiatrist Edward Hallowell. As our minds fill with noise, it becomes harder to focus and be present, or become better listeners.

Multiple tasks like a computer with many pages open makes it more difficult to finish a single task or have the necessary dedication to see something through to completion.

This is why it’s so important to spend time in nature, have those quiet moments, completely technology-free and to play in the outdoors because it contributes to a child’s development emotionally, intellectually, and socially.

According to the BBC, about 370 schools in the UK are now introducing meditation and mindfulness as part of the school curriculum.

Meditation improves concentration and focus as well as has a deeply calming effect on the entire nervous system.

It also improves creativity, empathy and a sense of compassion or inner “connection” that can be lacking when a child is constantly focusing outwards, rather than focusing inwards and increasing levels of his or her own self-awareness and EQ.

A mobile device in small doses is ok.

Sure, it’s hard to ignore the wealth of knowledge, applications and truly educational content catering to young children online.

It has become one of the swiftest ways to placate an agitated or wailing child, especially, at meal times, so that parents are able to dine in peace. But moderation is key.

Kids are getting less and less access to nature and obesity levels are on the rise around the globe. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 40 million children under the age of five are overweight.

This number keeps rising. Dr Carly Wood highlighted a survey in 2013 of young people where only 10% had regular contact with natural environments, compared to 40% of adults who did so when they were young.

It’s alarming that this “nature-deficit disorder” is likely to have profound effects on children’s health and well-being in the long run.

Not long ago, before the advent of the internet, many of us ran around our neighbourhood playing “catch”, with the wind in our hair and rays of sunshine or tropical rain beating down on our faces.

This used to be enough to entertain us, yet in today’s modern world millennials are closing down their Facebook accounts because Instagram is “way cooler”.

Generation Z constantly scours the internet for the latest trends, and kids have become a tech savvy race unto their own. They even play online games with people from other countries that they’ve never met.

They have access to a plethora of information with a simple click of a button in the Google search bar, and voila! Immediate access to what they’re looking for.

Regardless of race, culture or language, kids can navigate through a labyrinth of content that no local library can ever compete with.

There’s no denying the power, speed and information online. There’s so much invaluable content kids can learn from that’s been made so easily accessible.

What’s important with so many choices available is to keep a vigilant eye on what they’re actually consuming on a daily basis.

Ideally, a child needs to be socialised and to be able to grow up with real human interactions that are not based on swiping gestures off a computer screen.

Parents too need to disconnect, to reconnect with themselves and their children. Make it a point to spend some time outdoors, and have quality time with each other.

Carve out precious moments to bond, where you’ve left all your phones and gadgets behind, to block out all those worldly distractions.

Jojo Struys is a regional TV host, speaker & wellness personality. She is also the founder of OhanaJo Studio, which is Malaysia’s largest yoga & sound healing space.