We are increasingly communicating through texting even with our closest circle of family and friends. Screens have become an integral part of our lives, and as parents, it is confusing when we hear of its harmful effects on our children. How will they be competent with technology if we don’t give them screens? Will we be failing as parents in equipping them to survive and thrive in this dynamic world?
As a parent of a 4-year-old, I intuitively knew that too much screen-time was bad and that it would impact her growth and learning. But I didn’t have a concrete answer to why it was harmful. I was grappling with the question - Is technology good or bad? It does work wonders as the new age nanny with all the educational videos and helping our children sit in one place for a longer time!
Christine Carter, PhD and sociologist, says that this is not a question we should be asking, as technology is a reality. And every new technology brings with it, massive change. The question lies in how we use it - to our benefit or harm. There are many wonderful ways to use technology for learning and communicating and yet we need to be aware of ways in which it could also harm us.
The world is facing its biggest mental health crisis - rates of anxiety, depression and suicides are at an all-time high and many researchers feel it could be linked to technology. This is because as a society, we have handed this massive change to children without understanding what it means to our neurological system (refer box).
This information sounds technical but when I fully understood it, the enormity of this really struck me. I used to wonder why my daughter was so cranky and irritable on a day when she had spent too much time on TV or videos. It was because like an addict, her brain was craving for more dopamine and there was not enough serotonin! And she is only four years old. I tried to imagine what can happen over time when children grow up with their lives saturated by screens. How will the brain learn to wire itself to be peaceful or happy? It’s no wonder we are seeing such high rates of depression.
Those closest to technology, the people working for companies in Silicon Valley know this - because companies are finding newer and newer ways to get people hooked. I was amazed when I read an article telling me about how many of them go to great lengths to protect their own children from it. They have screen-free homes and even hire nannies only on the condition that no screen will be used in the presence of the child.
When I hear this, I wonder if it is truly a possibility to keep the child away from screens in today’s world. For my family, I know this is just not a realistic option. For those of you in the same boat as me, the next best thing for us to do, is to be extremely aware and vigilant parents. To really put our minds to thinking of ways in which we can limit the use of screens in our lives and ensure our children’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
To be continued
Manasi Dandekaris a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families. To know more about our programs and workshops, look us up www.parentingmatters.in