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Technology and kids - how much damage is it really doing?

At The Nanny Diary, we enforce a strict no phone policy with our nannies when the children are awake. There is an extremely important reason for this.

As a medical student, I have done 4 years of study now and recently constructed a research proposal on the impact technology is having on children’s mental health. The findings were staggering.

Mental health is a growing issue in modern society, with 45% of all Australians over the age of 16 having suffered some form of mental illness at one point in their life, with 1 in 5 currently suffering. According to the World Health Organisation, depression is characterized by ‘sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, tiredness or poor concentration’. If there was something increasing the likelihood of your child feeling like this, wouldn’t you want to try and limit the time they spend with it? I’m talking about the ruthless technology, the silent predator.

Current guidelines suggest that children aged 2-5 years should have no more than 1 hour of screen time a day. With the rise of iPads, iPhones, tablets, laptops and smart TVs, limiting to 1 hour a day is becoming increasingly challenging. 41% of children under the age of 5 have a television in their bedroom. Why on Earth, would a child, under 5, need a television in their bedroom?! Yes it can be a distraction and I’m sure it’s nice to have some ‘quiet’ time once in a while, but television increases isolation, reduces social interaction and limits physical activity. Add all these ingredients together and boom, you’ve got a recipe for mental health disorder. It should also be pointed out that for every hour of television watched per day, a child’s risk of developing attention deficit disorder increases by 10%. Yes you read that correct – 10%.

I shouldn’t write this and target only television as the prime culprit. Mobile phones are the frightening sidekick. An alarming 25% of children under age 5 already have their own smartphone (insert stunned face emoji). Using phones as a source of playtime grossly limits challenges to children’s creativity and imaginations, as well as limiting necessary challenges to their bodies to achieve optimal sensory and motor development. Couple phones, television and even computers together, and screen time for most kids would far exceed 1 hour a day. Increased screen time overloads the visual and auditory sensory systems, creating an imbalance resulting in huge problems for neurological development. So how about we put the phones down, give the kids a puzzle, cook with them, run around outside or build a cubby house. Please, PLEASE, anything besides pass them your phone to play with.

It has always been my assumption that in the near future, we as a society, will bow down and worship technology. For surely at the rate we are going, technology will rule the world? We have a no phone policy for a reason - so that the kids don’t look up and see their nanny paying more attention to a piece of technology than to them. So that kids learn the first option for play is outside, or crafts at the table, rather than Angry Birds on a glass screen. The more interaction, communication, physical activity and creative stimulation, the less likely it is that children are exposed to the deadly risk factors, which aid in developing mental health disorders.

Life is busier than ever these days, and it’s so easy to give kids an iPhone or an iPad to distract them. But do you really want to distract your kids from the world that’s happening around them? Yes, sometimes it’s hard to settle them, to keep them entertained in the car, on a long flight even. Technology is not always the answer though. I feel pretty strongly about this and may have ruffled some feathers, but it is my honest opinion that too many people are relying on technology as an easy solution, unaware of the destructive consequences it can have later in life. So limit the technology, before its too late. Please.


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