Connected to electronics, and disconnected from childhood
April 12, 2016
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On any given day, Kiyah, a Bensalem school district fourth grader, spends hours mesmerized by the images on her fancy tablet. “I spend so much time on my tablet at least 5 or 6 hours a day. I’m always finding new stuff it’s addicting,” she admits.
She continued saying, “I use it in the morning when I wake up, and as soon as I’m done my homework after school it’s the first thing I grab.”
Kiyah is not alone. Millions of grade-schoolers and teenagers all over the world continue to have their faces buried in some type of electronic device, tuning out the world around them.
The most common image seen in 2016 are people surrounded by one another, not saying a word because they’re on some type of electronics, and it seems that children are becoming more infected by the electronic bug.
For children nowadays, hanging out with friends means sitting at someone’s house or in a public place staring at the screen of a device, not interacting with those around you.
The word “addictive” that Kiyah uses is the best way to describe it. We are a society that is in love with, and maybe unhealthily attached to, our electronics.
Recently The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a survey with children ages eight to 18 years old. The survey found that on average they spend seven hours and 38 minutes a day using some type of electronic entertainment.
This number is almost four times the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended two hours per day of screen time for kids ages 3-18.
The average screen time in 1995 was just above the recommended two hours per day, at only three hours.
Electronic use continues to grow rapidly among youth because of its accessibility and convenience.
It’s so easy for kids to access technology nowadays, one would think that kids are almost born with the knowledge of how to work it.
At toddler ages, kids are now able to work electronics on their own.
Being so wrapped up in the electronic world, kids seem to be missing out on the wonders of the world outside of that small screen.
Social and Behavioral Sciences Professor Max Probst says, “Kids are most likely spending more time with electronics compared to when I was a kid because there are more opportunities to do so.” He continued, “I think kids are impacted by their social environment so if the rest of their cohort are spending a lot of time on the computer, they are more likely to.”
Probst makes a very valid point. During adolescence kids are much more likely to follow the crowd, so if their friends are glued to the electronic screen, so are they.
“I like videogames so I do spend a lot of time on that. But I’m not one of those kids that texts 24/7.
I actually hardly ever text,” said Pennsbury School District eighth grader Christian. He added, “My friends and I play Xbox live a lot, so we’ll all talk on there and compete with each other online.”
Experts, such as Probst, and even parents seem to think that kids haven’t completely lost touch with the non-electronic world yet.
Susan Carabello, a mother of two children in the Pennsbury School District, says, “I can honestly say when it comes to my boy’s friends, when the weather is nice, we hardly see them inside.” She laughed and continued saying, “I always joke around and say that I should move to Florida because then my kids would probably never be on any electronics, and spend most of their time outside and enjoying being a kid.”
Carabello also remarked that even though constantly being online and communicating virtually is becoming more popular, she thinks her boys, as well as their friends, are fairly good when it comes to balancing virtual life with real-life activities.
Probst added, “I don’t think that most kids are tucked away behind a computer in their bedrooms. There probably are a good deal, but I don’t think it is the majority yet.”
Those who were born before Wifi know what it was like to have to actually go over your friends’ houses, or wait until you saw them in school to tell them something.
There was no Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or even texting. If you wanted to know what was going on, your only choice was to meet face-to-face.
The times of passing notes in class, and whisper down the lane are very far gone. Now everything between children is lost between back and forth text messaging.
“Usually, if I want to hang out with my friends I just call their cell phones, but a lot of the time we just text each other,” said Pennsbury School District fifth-grader Andrew.
When asked if more time is spent on electronics versus spending time being active or out with friends, Pennsbury School District fifth-grader Jessica had this to say: “Since I have school now I would say I spend more time being with friends, but when I don’t have school, I think I spend more time on electronics. Especially, my phone. I always have that, but I guess it depends on what I’m doing that day.”
Some kids even realize that constant electronic use can be a problem.
When asked how they would feel if all their electronics were taken away, Pennsbury School District eighth-grader Julianna said, “I think I would be fine with it, only because then I would have a chance to interact with people more face-to-face.”
She added, “I think me being on my electronics a lot can take away from that. So even though it may be annoying at first, it would be a nice change.”
Pennsbury School District fifth-grader Andrew had this to say in response to the same question, “I wouldn’t be all like, ‘oh I hate my life I have nothing to live for now,’ but I’d definitely be sad for the first couple days then I think I would have no choice but to get over it.”
He laughed and continued, “I think I would probably end up doing something more productive like studying or going outside, so I guess that would be good.”
With so much technology and access it’s almost impossible for kids to not grow up too fast, and ultimately miss out on the simple joys of being a kid.
They’re exposed to too much, way too early, and they lose their innocence and simplicity of life at such a young age.
Now it’s almost as if a lot of parents are just giving up and giving in; accepting that their kid being glued to some digital screen is the new norm.
Probst commented, “Young people are attached to their electronics because electronics exist. As long as manufacturers are making products that appeal to young people, young people will use the products.”
He added jokingly, “I don’t see technology going away anytime soon, unless we have a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion causing us to lose power.”
Probst finished, “if technology didn’t exist, kids would be attached to something else and someone would be complaining that kids spend too much time doing whatever that is.”
But maybe it’s about time for the kids to shut down the screens, unplug the computers, tie up their sneakers, and go enjoy life as a kid before the real responsibilities kick in.
Because honestly there’s so much more life outside of that little screen.