It's virtually impossible to go anywhere these days without encountering someone completely engrossed in an electronic device. You see it everywhere-- the driver next to you at the stop light scrolling through his iPod, the person in front of you in the drive-thru line scanning a coupon with her smart phone, and the college student sitting at the local coffee shop, totally absorbed in an article on his tablet. It's not just adults that are technologically savvy either. Children are being introduced to mobile devices earlier and earlier. In fact, 7 out of 10 children younger than 8 years of age have used a smart phone or tablet.
The widespread use of technology amongst children has many experts and parents alike wondering about the impact of technology on the development of children. According to a kid's health expert, preschool aged children who use mobile devices frequently are 25 percent more likely to develop speech problems and require speech therapy. This is likely due in part to the lack of interaction that results from excessive smart phone or tablet use. Ruth Milanaik, an attending developmental and behavioral physician at the Cohen Children's Medical Center, had this to say about children and the use of technology:
"Technology can never replace a parent's interaction with his or her child. Just talking to your child is the best way to encourage learning."
However, it's not simply the lost opportunities for social interaction that might contribute to children's diminshed speech skills. Many games and shows on mobile devices are overstimulating for children, which can lead to developmental problems and even damage their young brains.
So, should children be permanently banned from playing Angry Birds on a smart phone or watching an educational show on a tablet? The truth is that research on the impacts of technology is much slower than the technological advances themselves. However, most experts seem to agree that moderation is key. In addition to limiting total screen time for kids, integrating technology into "family time" can prove to be beneficial. As Dr. Dimitri Christakis told NPR: "There's no reason whatsoever that a caregiver can't use an app with their child...It's a great opportunity for what we call 'joint attention' — the interactions between a child and a caregiver, the back-and-forth, which is critical not just to language development, but brain development."
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