Teachers warn of serious developmental issues in children 'addicted' to tech

Generations of responsible parents have protected their children from an excess of TV-watching, realizing that spending hours and hours of the day watching telly isn't the best way for them to spend their formative years. But TV isn't what it once was, and let's face it - the coolest kids of all ages have their own tablet these days. 

It seems that the same lessons regarding overexposure to television must apparently be re-learned when it comes to the new generation of devices that children are now growing up with, and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is keen to ensure that parents learn those lessons quickly. 

As The Telegraph reports, the ATL's annual conference heard this week from its members across the United Kingdom, who are becoming increasingly concerned by the effects of technology on children today. 

Members described, for example, how infants as young as three, who had no trouble using touchscreens, were found to have "little or no dexterity in their fingers", since their hands were doing little more than tapping the screen over and over again. Teacher Colin Kinney said he had heard numerous reports from kindergarten / nursery staff of "young pupils who can swipe a screen but have little or no manipulative skills to play with building blocks or the like". 

It's not just young children who are at risk. Kinney cited examples of "pupils who come into classrooms after spending most of the previous night playing computer games and whose attention span is so limited that they may as well not be there." Some students were found to be overwhelmed by pen-and-paper examinations because they had become so dependent on always having phones, tablets and PCs around them that they had become "unable to apply what they should have learned from their textbooks."

Teacher and ATL member Mark Montgomery additionally pointed to "weight gain, aggressive behavior, tiredness and repetitive strain injury" as further effects that education staff had repeatedly seen in students 'overexposed' to technology. Children's social and interpersonal skills are also being harmed, said Kinney, explaining that some students "cannot socialize with other pupils, but [their] parents talk proudly of their ability to use a tablet or smartphone." 

The ATL has called on parents to help their children by reducing their use of tablets and smartphones, particularly late at night. The organization said that it supports proposals to issue advice and guidance to teachers and parents on how best to deal with children "addicted" to such devices. 

Montgomery added: "In the same way we can use a brick to either break a window or build a house, digital technology can be used for good or bad, and teachers can and should help their pupils make positive choices so they have positive experiences." Ultimately, perhaps, the simple lesson to be learned here is that good things are best enjoyed in moderation, and even the best things can become harmful in excess. 

Source: The Telegraph 
Baby working image via Shutterstock

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Another indication that, by and large, the last two generations of parents have chosen to "outsource" the child-rearing functions or parenting. Or, to phrase it more crudely--lazy parenting.

It's fine in reasonable amounts. Putting the kid in an environment where the pencil is unheard of and the outside might as well be a myth... yeah, no.

I credit Seinfeld with teaching me English when I was young (GIDDY UP KRAMER!), and I know that I loved my N64 way too much, but my parents knew to give me time to read, learn, go outside, etc... TALK to other people...

In essence, make sure your kid knows of the outside world as a real and tangible thing, give them opportunities to partake in the virtual as well as the real world, and TALK TO THEM. SPEND TIME WITH THEM. IT WORKS.

There's nothing wrong with it in reasonable amounts, though some people are just terrible parents. My cousin for example; her 10 year old son gets up at daylight and gets on the Xbox, then he goes to bed when it gets dark out. If he isn't at school he is on the 360 with a headset on, all day. She even takes his food to him at his desk. /facepalm

Some students were found to be overwhelmed by pen-and-paper examinations
As an adult I can attest to this. Typing for hours on a daily basis has reduced my penmanship, admittedly never pretty to begin with, to almost an illegible crawl now. My writing speed has decreased a lot too whereas back in school and college I could quickly polish off extremely lengthy essays and other writing projects with ease. It's not just me either. From an evolutionary perspective I don't know whether this sort of thing is good or bad though...

This is just the next cycle of "it's new therefore it must be bad for the kids." Before that it was TV, comics, rock music, you name it.

Just make sure your kids are only exposed to a reasonable amount and they'll be fine. Too much of anything is bad.

The issue isn't too much tech, it's too little responsible parenting.

As a Teacher and now Administrator, Single Dad of 2.... This is just plain dumb.

I do not want to start a Rant here on the real issues behind the educational problems. So my short version is this, roughly 90% of the top kids have a Parental Figure that is evolved with their education.

Well said. It certainly explains the huge drop in the level of education over the past two generations. Think "parents outsourcing parenting."

I have five year old twins. I bought them each a "Nabi 2" two years ago. They use their tablets daily but for short periods of time mostly to occupy their time when there's nothing on TV and they're not in the mood to play with their toys. They each have extracurricular physical activities and they love to go to the park.

It's all about controlling the amount of time spent using a device; be it a tablet; a TV or anything.

I don't think it's tech that is the issue... I took apart an IBM PCjr at the age of 4 and put it back together... I was doing digital electronic circuits at age 6... programming in C++ by 7... School thought I had a "problem" because no normal kid can do this..... instead of putting me in advanced classes they put me in lower classes back because of this "problem"... parents even fought with the school over that because I was not getting bad grades so it made no sense...

I think the problem is what the kids are doing with the tech, not what is on the tech... look at video games, when I was young with NES people said "it will ruin you eyes"... while my eye doctor was saying "No it's good for your eyes, it improves your ability to tack things and improves eye hand coordination"... now every darn thing is social media even with games, and kids don't really learn with tech, they just use tech it's just there, it's no longer a tool to learn, it's just something they have and don't think twice about...

Tech can be an issue too. I have come across many kids who when asked basic questions about the world around them whip out their phones and Google. Kids who can't do simple Math problems in their head or even with paper and pencil and have to use a calculator every darn time. When tech becomes a substitute for imbibing necessary skills there's nothing good about it.

With some schools now providing or asking parents to buy tablets on 1:1 schemes, it will be interesting to see how all this pans out.

On one side you have teachers asking for moderate use but on the other you have teachers pushing for 1:1 devices schemes which would surly lead to increased usage in and out of school.

As long as it's not meant for very young kids it's fine I suppose, and as long as healthy outdoor activities are also an integral part of their day.

My son started using a tablet at 18 months. He plays Endless Alphabet, Reader, and Numbers. Great educational games. It has really helped build his vocabulary and now he's started counting fairly well.

That said, my wife does a great job of NOT letting him use the tablet too much. We almost made the mistake of using that or the TV to keep him distracted while we get things done but we realized quickly that his behavior was vastly better when we turned off the TV and limited tablet use. Now he is 26 months and his favorite activity is playing outside followed by having us read books to him. He loves exploring our back yard (which is a pretty decent size with lots of trees and boulders). He mostly gets upset only when he can't go out there. IMO that is a nice problem to have these days.

Sgt Beavis said,
we realized quickly that his behavior was vastly better when we turned off the TV and limited tablet use
It's good you realized this and acted upon it, but unfortunately not all parents do or worse even care. Perhaps dire warnings will jolt them out of their slumber and make them react to safeguard their children's health.

As for vocabulary, counting skills and the like, we had none of these gadgets and never had a problem picking these skills up at a young age. It's more about the quality of parenting and the intellectual stimulation required can be provided even without shiny gadgets. Of course I'm not advocating that we throw all tech out, but the saying that "there's a time (age) and place for everything" is definitely true.

Edited by Romero, Apr 17 2014, 7:41pm :

Assuming the source is credible and without an agenda, which is rare these days, the answer is what it's always been. Moderation.

Hahaiah said,
Assuming the source is credible and without an agenda, which is rare these days, the answer is what it's always been. Moderation.

My exact thoughts on the matter.

I know let's blame Technology / Video Games / Porn for problems in society......parents have a responsibility to make sure their kids go to bed at an appropriate time, do their homework, are limited to certain media to certain times.

Technology can have a positive effect too.

Pretty much this right here. The problem with kids in today's world isn't technology. The problem is the parents. There are all sorts of things that people frown upon with regards to disciplining your child now.

I don't think they're blaming all technology in general at all. It's about sensitizing parents that exposure to technology at a young age may be harmful to a child's development.

Romero said,
I don't think they're blaming all technology in general at all. It's about sensitizing parents that exposure to technology at a young age may be harmful to a child's development.

Perhaps. Personally, I don't believe that's the case. In fact, I'm usually pretty vocal with my friends and family members who try to keep their kids away from technology. They are deliberately forcing a handicap unto their children when it's clear technology isn't going anywhere. Obviously the age at which your child should be learning to use some of the these technologies is debatable. As is whether or not social (Facebook, Twitter etc) should be included. Ultimately, there are far worse things going on than whether your child is 5 and playing on an iPad.

Tech is hardly a handicap when introduced at the appropriate age. 2-year olds constantly stuck staring at an iPad screen from close quarters are certainly not going to grow up unaffected. Tech can be introduced later and they can enjoy all its advantages, and if they use it responsibly and learn to understand and appreciate it they will reap all the benefits. Personally I've yet to come across any child not introduced to tech right from very early childhood who ended up being disadvantaged in any way compared to those who were. Not to mention people who've done amazing stuff despite not having access to tech at all while growing up, perhaps due to difficult circumstances or whatever.

The earlier you start a child on something the better.

Like if you speak a different language or languages, then teach these to them.

Up to the age of 7, children learn the most through out their lives.

So if the child can be fluent in many languages, write code for apps or other technical items

then it's good.

TV is something good also for the child, all those nature and cooking programmes, make them

good children.

It's the reality TV crap you must stop them from watching.

Our two boys, 8 and 6 are restricted in their time using the tablets, PC and games consoles. To be honest they're very good about it too, always off before or by the time we agreed, they also love sports and after school activities which takes up a lot of their time. We're not so restrictive when they're using it as a study and homework aid, but for anything non-study i.e. Minecraft which they're both very much into we limit their time. There'll be no use of anything in the bedrooms/behind closed doors until they're a lot older.

Incredible that major media like the telegraph is only mentioning this today. I'm still in my late teens but I've already noticed this issue. So, I won't be feeding my children technology early in their lives.

Well the Problem is that a lot of Parents now both have to work. In the evenings they are exhausted and want some relaxing time. The best way for that is the Child to sit in front of the TV or PC.
30 Years ago it was not Problem to stay at home for a couple of years and take care of the child with just a single income

No disrespect intended - that's a cop out excuse tbh.. We work long hours, and make time for the kids when we get home. Who cares how tired you are, your kids come first.

For you that can work, for many it doesn't.

Me and my sister always came first for my parents, yet they where tired as f*ck when they got home from their 50-80 hour work weeks just to stay afloat.

oh man, that picture, so awful.

We've made a conscious decision not to let our kids near tech for the first few years of their lives. I'd rather they were scraping knees and falling out of trees than watching stuff on tablets.

ZipZapRap said,
oh man, that picture, so awful.

We've made a conscious decision not to let our kids near tech for the first few years of their lives. I'd rather they were scraping knees and falling out of trees than watching stuff on tablets.

make it the first 8 years, and they will grow as normal, otherwise... bummer

Oh yeah, it's not going to be 4-5 years or anything.. Realistically, they'll have to be exposed to tech at school, which we understand and approve of, but not for playtime or anything.

I don't really agree with that.

I'm now 30, and I started on computers at 5, my mother taught me the basics of QBasic at the age of 6 and it just went on from there. I got good grades in school, event taught at a College for a little while. Created and sold a game engine at the age of 16, and now working as a senior software engineer and bespoke electronics designer.

So if anything, exposure to tech at an early age was good for me. So I don't think tech itself is the problem, it's what type of exposure you are offering the child. Teach them practical and educational skills at an early age, and it's good. Shove them in front of mind numbing kid shows like Telly Tubbies (or whatever is the latest thing these days), and your kid's brain will just rot.

I'm not saying every kid should become a programmer, but I think practical tech skills are a good thing to gain at an early age, especially with how digital the world is becoming!

JustinN said,
snip

yep, I agree tech has benefits to kids, and we will slowly introduce it to them as they grow up
we just refuse to let them play games or watch TV/movies on devices... and it's a flat out no for kids under 2 to even watch TV.. they're eyes still aren't properly developed at that age

JustinN said,
I don't really agree with that.

I'm now 30, and I started on computers at 5, my mother taught me the basics of QBasic at the age of 6 and it just went on from there.

I'm a programmer myself in my 40s who first learned BASIC on the Commodore 64, and I'm not disagreeing entirely with what you're saying either. However, kids today are using very different devices serving very different purposes--what kid today is learning programming on a tablet or smartphone?

_dandy_ said,

I'm a programmer myself in my 40s who first learned BASIC on the Commodore 64, and I'm not disagreeing entirely with what you're saying either. However, kids today are using very different devices serving very different purposes--what kid today is learning programming on a tablet or smartphone?


Have you met a few modern tech kids? those 10-14 year old? Able to program in 3-5 different languages, know how to work a Windows and Linux server better then many that went to college for it.
I'm raised with computers, not into programming but management is where my interests were (nowadays I mainly program). Some young ones at the age of 14 are way beyond any level we used to be when we were 14.

Shadowzz said,
Have you met a few modern tech kids? those 10-14 year old? Able to program in 3-5 different languages, know how to work a Windows and Linux server better then many that went to college for it.
I'm raised with computers, not into programming but management is where my interests were (nowadays I mainly program). Some young ones at the age of 14 are way beyond any level we used to be when we were 14.

You seem to have missed my last sentence. Most kids are leaving the computers behind in favor of tablets and smartphones. There's not much learning going on with those garden-walled environments.