Is Screen Addiction Taking a Toll on Children?

While looking through Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair’s website, I first decided to read her “About” page to see if I could indicate her stance on digital media, specifically in children. Dr. Steiner-Adair is a pioneer researcher for developing nourishing and healthy relationships in this digital age. I also noticed she does a lot of work to strengthen girls’ self and body esteem, which may be low because of the media in society today. At the bottom of her website, I discovered a New York Times article entitled, “Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children,” and decided to take a look.

The article, written by Jane E. Brody, is about the excessive use of electronics and screens in children. Brody makes the argument that technology is a “poor substitute for personal interaction” and she describes the negative effects of children staring at screens all day. She writes, “Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.” Why do parents these days give their children electronics? Often, it’s to make them be quiet. I remember when I was out to dinner with my parents a few weeks ago (who have a rule of, “no cellphones at the dinner table”) and we sat next to a family of three children, all under the age of what appeared to be 6 or 7. All three of the children were playing on iPads. While I could not figure out what they were playing or what apps they were using, I was clearly able to notice how quiet their dinner was. The children hardly looked up from their devices. In a sense, the iPads could be considered as babysitters or a means to keep the children well behaved. The article quotes Dr. Steiner-Adair who said, “Children have to know that life is fine off the screen. It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.” I would be curious to see the evidence from research that shows how children who use devices before the age of 2 fair in school compared to those who hardly use electronics at all. I believe there are points to be made on either side, and I am hoping we can explore both of the pros and cons in our class this semester!

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