It is becoming easier and easier for anyone to access the internet and use digital devices, and this seem to slowly be replacing traditional childhood experiences. Kids today are growing up with iPads, laptops and smartphones. Basically, they are living in front of a screen. In contrast, our generation of college students grew up with increasing occurrences of technological advances. We still spent less time in front of a screen and more time experiencing the real world. Now, with fewer regulations on the media and consumerism, kids have easy and quick access to social networking and media, which can be both beneficial and detrimental. Technology is not terrible for children growing up, especially with how digitalized our world has become. However, it could be necessary to limit time spent behind the screen for all ages. Instead of fighting this unstoppable change, we should embrace the change and learn how to balance sitting in front of a screen with experiencing the real world and people.
Most American children spend about three hours a day watching television, but combined with all types of screen time the average shoots up to around seven hours per day in front of a screen. In 1995, the average time children spent in front of any type of screen was around three hours. Due to increasing technology, the spike in screen time makes sense, but, how beneficial and detrimental can screen time be? While the internet, television and any other electronic devices can be a valuable learning tool, they still have harmful effects physically, mentally and socially. Also, advertisements play a huge role especially because children tend to believe what they are told and could feel deprived if they do not have that product or service.
Television, internet and interactive digital games can be a powerful teacher. For example, the television show “Sesame Street” is a great example of how toddlers can learn valuable lessons such as cooperation, racial harmony and the alphabet. The internet and interactive games can help a child improve their language and spatial skills due to the technology offering multi-sensory engagement. Another advantage to the technology can be expanding their horizons; the child is exposed to things they cannot see everyday; this could also be harmful because, the child could gain a false image of the world.
One of the most unhealthy effects of the Internet is how influential it can be, especially to younger generations. A number of studies have documented that children under the age of eight are developmentally unable to understand the difference between advertising and regular programming. The more time children spend on the television or internet, the more they will be exposed to shows or advertisements showing them how to look, act and think, thus creating a false sense of reality. With fewer regulations on media and consumerism, any person of any age can look up almost anything they want. They can be exposed to extremely violent, crude or sexual behavior, which could make them think it is okay to act like that.
Advertisements often sexualize women and portray messages that encourage kids to feel like they need to grow up to be skinny, pretty and athletic. While all of this is happening, media puts out over 60 percent of advertisements promoting sugar-loaded cereals, candy, fatty foods and toys. By sending out these conflicting messages, kids eat the unhealthy food then feel terrible about it because society tells them they also have to be skinny. With all the new social media hype and “Instagram models,” kids and teenagers are so worried about what others think of them and how many followers and likes they have that they are losing sight of the real world. They do whatever they can to get that certain number of likes.
Another detrimental aspect of media is how it distracts the child or teenager from completing vital activities such as exercising, socializing and completing school work. A lot of school work is online these days, but having that easy opportunity to open another tab to Facebook or Twitter is too tempting. Exercising and socializing are very important to living a healthy life, but online socializing does not provide the same benefits as socializing face-to-face. Once children get into the habit of staying behind the screen, they will slowly stop exercising and socializing in real life, as well as taking too long or not even completing their homework. The habits people build in childhood tend to stick with them for awhile. The purpose of this article is not to completely trash all forms of media, but to inform about the harmful effects of media. Yes, we should grow along with the technology and accept its upcoming advances, but we should also be aware of how impactful it can be and limit our use of it.
Marie Bray is a fourth-year communications studies major and journalism minor. ✉MB822035@wcupa.edu.