There is no running away from the fact that technology is ruling our lives. Every time you enter a toy shop to buy birthday gifts, inadvertently you move towards musical and hi-tech toys. This is what children enjoy the most now. Toddlers have become the main target audience of tech toys and multimedia companies. Some of the most prominent toys include robots, tablets, mobile phones and interactive digital books. The fact that these devices can be carried around anywhere and everywhere makes them an integral part of children’s lives.
However, you cannot turn a blind eye to the ill-effects of exposure to technology at such a tender age. Steve Jobs once said that he knew the dangers of technology first hand and he did not want his children to have similar experiences. So, he had not given them an iPad.
Here is a list of possible ill-effects tech toys can have on toddlers.
1. Lack of interpersonal skills with family
Tech toys introduce children to a virtual world. They start relating more to the characters on screen then the real life humans. Face-to-face communication is replaced by touch screen interaction with cartoon characters. Toddlers do not have the ability to comprehend the difference. Therefore, that special bonding between parent and child also get affected. A research by American Academy of Pediatrics states that there is no such thing as educational TV for kids under 2 years of age. It actually interferes with communication between parents and children. Lack of communication also results in delayed language skills.
2. Weakens creative and imaginative skills
When you hand over a tech toy to a child, he immediately starts pressing buttons to know how it works. Children learn to control things in a pre-programmed and mechanical manner. They tend to remember every move by-heart and just keep repeating it in every play. This hampers their creative thinking and imagination ability. They get into a habit of doing things the way they are taught. It also restricts their learning ability. Exploring, finding different ways or coming up with creative ideas might seem as an alien concept to them in the future.
3. Poor social engagement skills
Once again, with the virtual world at their fingertips, toddlers fail to notice the surrounding. They do not enjoy playing with other children in the park. This results in lack of social skills among toddlers. Learning social interaction at an early age is very important. If this addiction is not controlled at the right time, children may get used to being lonely. They will face difficulties interacting with friends and teachers at school. A fear of crowd will overpower them. For example, in a birthday party where all the children are playing games and fighting for balloons, your child will be sitting in a corner staring at others. He will find it difficult to start a conversation or become a part of the group.
4. Health issues and delayed physical development
Sitting at one place staring at the screen or just pressing buttons of remote controlled toys can have adverse effects on children’s health. According to a research by University of Washington, modern gadgets are not necessary in child development. Children can thrive on being talked to and read to. Overexposure to gadgets may cause attention deficit, cognitive delays and impaired learning. Staring at screens also strains the delicate eye tissues of the toddlers.
In addition, tech toys don’t engage children in physical activities which results in delayed body development. In the long run, it can also make a child obese.
“We hear about shocking accidents, we see people around us looking at various memes (on smartphones and gadgets, ironically) and all this because we are enslaved to our technology and cursed by the negative impact of social media. I remember a time when watching TV used to be a family activity, and everyone was forced to watch that one serial our senior-most person in the family liked or chose to watch. Nobody could argue with the grandfather. Though we may not have liked what he watched, watching TV was always something the family bonded over. Cut to today’s family where each room has its own TV, so if your child doesn’t like what you are watching, he/she will just go to their room and watch what they like,” says Vaishali S Sharma, Founder, The Champa Tree.
“Although there is a rise in time spent, is this quantity equating to quality time? Apparently not. May be then we should pick a time when the children are most likely to be active. Interestingly, there is a solution to this problem. A work-at- home mom shared her experience in an article in Forbes magazine saying that her children prefer to play outdoor during the afternoon time. So this could be a good time to play along with them and bond. Another way could be having the meals together as a family, including the breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If not all, then at least the dinners should be together so that everyone gets to share their day’s experiences,” she adds.
Technology is the buzz word of the century. Depriving your children of this advancement is not a viable solution. Expertise in technology will form the base of whatever career they choose. The real challenge is to make an informed choice. Use your parental instincts to limit their exposure to technology. Toddlers actually need very limited access to tech toys. Choose toys that encourage, social and verbal skills, imagination and allows you to play along with children. This will enable you to monitor the things they grasp from the play. Maintain a balance between tech toys and traditional toys like building blocks and pretend play games. Do not leave them unsupervised while using gadgets. Technology is not all bad. It has its own advantages in today’s world. But it needs to be introduced in the right way at the right age.