Kids and Technology

by Kristen McClure Therapist
(Charlotte NC)

Generation M2


Last week I was interviewed by a local news channel about a new study done by the Kaiser Foundation on the influence of media in the lives of children.

I did a little background research and found we don't know what the long term impact of this constant connectivity is. There hasn't been enough research.

I want to be open minded about this topic. I know as I rapidly approach 40 that I have become the adult that says "When I was a kid we had to walk 40 miles in the snow to get to school". I always thought I would be a cool adult who didn't do that. I don't want to be the adult who is afraid of change, or misses out on important advances because of technophobia.

Seriously though, in some ways I am that adult that thinks things were better before. In my day we didn't have cell phones. We had a rotary phone that we shared. It was hard to have a private conversation without your parents knowing what you were saying. I think that might have been a good thing. My 8 year old therapy clients want cell phones. Is that necessary? Is it necessary that they have a face book page? Actually, I think it is. This is how children connect now. It's too late to turn back, and we have to accept this.

I can't deny that technology has afforded me with incredible opportunities to learn and communicate in ways I never could have imagined. I love it! I network with local professionals on face book, I staff cases with experts around the world on email lists, I attend teleconferences and listen and watch audio and video trainings all over the country.

I remember hiking through the snow in Buffalo to get to the library and make photocopies of research articles so I could write my research papers. That's not necessary anymore. Maybe real libraries wont be necessary much longer. I hope that's not the case.

Different isn't necessarily worse, and people just don't like change. I don't want to respond simply out of fear. I think it's important for us to recognize our fear of change as we ponder the question of how this is influencing our kids.

I worry about their brains, though. We know that mindfulness, meditation and yoga all have a tremendously positive impact on anxiety and depression. What about the opposite? This constant over-stimulation and multitasking would seem to promote stress. In a sense we are teaching the mind not to attend to one task, our current lifestyles discourage attention.

Multiple research studies show that kids and adults who multitask do everything less effectively and less efficiently. Research also shows that the children who have limits on their texting, face-booking, TV watching and video game playing do better in school than those who don't have those limits. Children who spend more time engaged in these activities also report lower personal contentment. This is interesting and important to pay attention to.

I also worry about instant gratification. Being able to delay gratification is key to long term success in life isn't it? We can't just always act on impulse. We have to be able to set goals and work towards them and make sacrifices. If kids are growing up learning they don't have to wait for anything, won't this impact their ability to sustain this kind of commitment in the future? There is an addictive unhealthy quality to much of this media. Anyone who has been on face-book or has a blackberry knows this. I know it and still get hooked. What about our kids? How is this effecting them?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I hope we can figure them out. Frontline has done a great story on this which can be viewed online here.

Here is the new story.

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