There is no question that smart phone/devices make it easier to access information faster and also to reach one another 24/7/365. However, does all this handheld technology cause more harm than good? There is evidence to suggest that early childhood development is negatively impacted by excessive “screen time”. It can also impact our health, both physically and mentally.
Impacts on Speech
Whenever I see a toddler playing on their parent’s smartphone and/or tablet, I’m amazed. In fact, most kids can navigate an electronic device before they can speak a sentence. Is this a good thing though? Yes and no. Yes, it is good since children must learn how to interact with technology in order to thrive in today’s electronic world. However, there is evidence that excessive “screen time” for our youth is detrimental to the development of language and/or communication skills.
When handheld devices are being used by children between the ages of six months and two years of age, expressive speech development is delayed. In fact, for every 30 minutes of screen time, there is a 49% increased risk of speech delay according to Time magazine. The impact on speech can also be seen in teenagers and even adults. The replacement of one-on-one communication with emails and quick texts back and forth is taking its’ toll on human health and interpersonal interactions.
Impacts on Health
Is our obsession with our smart devices making us unhealthy? On a whole there is a tendency for most people to zone out while playing games, watching videos or surfing the net. This leads to decreased physical activity and raises the likelihood for obesity. Mobile devices are also responsible for causing dangerous and sometimes fatal distraction if used while driving.
Mental health is also directly impacted by electronic devices. Anonymous bullying is easier in cyberspace, because the bully is able to hide behind electronics. Real-time insults are possible via social media channels. Back in the day, when a teen was left out of an event or party they found out about it after the fact. Now teens can be hurt as it happens by seeing photos on social media, causing acute distress and mental anguish.
Changes must happen before the younger generations are irrevocably damaged.
Moderation is Key
Are we slowly phasing out socializing and learning from other people and the world around us? Are we replacing being “alone with our thoughts” with a constant stream of information gathering? Hopefully not. We need to break our dependence on information-gathering via smartphones and other devices. We need to focus on conversations and interactions with others. Recently there has been a push to limit smartphone use by our youth.
In order to break the addiction children have to their mobile devices, influential Apple investors have published an open letter to Apple Inc. calling for design changes to increase parental controls within the iPhone. Another way is to change the design, moving away from addictive functions (i.e. push notifications, encouraging the constant need to check the screen for messages).
We can start to address this issue by FIRST emphasizing and training our children how to verbally communicate and then electronically communicate. The only way to really accomplish this goal is to start with a ban on smartphone use in primary and middle schools. With this solid starting point, there will be hope for our youth to learn to effectively communicate face-to-face with one another.
Timothy Dimoff Knows the Importance of Interpersonal Connections
Move past email and text messages to connect with coworkers, peers and customers with Tim Dimoff’s presentation The Lost Art of Human Interaction. Contact Tim today to speak at your organization and re-establish one-on-one communication with others to set yourself apart from the competition.