Will technology change the way your child’s brain is wired?

Your childhood was perhaps replete with hours spent outdoors, playing under the unfiltered sun. The most access to technology you may have had back in the day was probably the fascinating half hour spent before the TV screen. However, children of the 21st century, belonging to Generation Alpha or the iGeneration, have had it different. Most kids born in the 2000s or later have had unrestrained access to technology from an early age.

There are innumerable upsides of using technology to keep children entertained and to improve the way they’re educated. However, there’s also a growing concern among parents about how technology affects children. The impact of technology on a child’s brain is a growing area in scientific research, and the evidence we have thus far points only to minor correlations between the use of technology and certain aspects in a child’s development.

So, will technology change the way your child’s brain is wired? And if it does, will it be for the better or for worse? Let’s delve deeper.

The dangers of unrestrained exposure to technology

Scientific research revolving around the impact of technology on children’s brains is still in its nascent stages. However, there’s enough scientific evidence to conclude that constant and unregulated access to technology can interfere with the development of a child’s social skills. Owing to dependency on technology for entertainment and fun, children these days are increasingly choosing to spend their leisure hours indoors instead of engaging in outdoor play with their peers. This severe lack of interaction among children can hamper their ability to connect socially with other people.

Childhood obesity is another major danger that has constantly been on the rise since technology took over the lives of children. Tech-driven devices like computers, smartphones, and televisions contribute significantly to a lack of physical activity in children. This results in children becoming overweight or obese at a very young age. Furthermore, prolonged periods spent indoors tethered to tech-driven gadgets also limits your child’s exposure to sunlight. This can lead to alarmingly low levels of Vitamin D, which in turn results in fatigue, tiredness, and impaired immunity in children.

Recent scientific studies also conclusively link excessive electronic screen time to low sleep quality. This is primarily because the screens used in popular gadgets emit blue light, which is harmful to the eyes since it can lead to eye irritation and headaches. Additionally, extended exposure to blue light suppresses melatonin, leading to a disruption in the sleep cycle. And ultimately, inadequate or poor quality of sleep causes attention span deficiencies in children, resulting in poor academic performance.

The upsides of using technology in child-related activities

Even given how technology affects children adversely in certain areas, it’s not all bad. The upsides of using technology are many and varied, and it’s extremely hard to argue against the fact that technology has tremendously helped children grow in new and exciting ways. A research study published in the Psychological Bulletin shows that video games can particularly improve a child’s reaction and reflex times, spatial and visual capabilities, and even concentration and attention to detail.

Children also get more adept at multitasking when they’re exposed to new-age tech solutions. The pervasive use of internet search options may be making children more capable of knowing where to find things as opposed to merely remembering them. And given the widespread presence of data and information, this may be the better skill to develop in the long run. Furthermore, with children no longer required to retain too much information in their brain, they’re free to engage in other high-caliber cerebral activities such as problem solving and critical thinking.

Technology-driven educational aids are also rapidly changing the way children learn complex ideas and concepts. Kids who use the internet as an academic utility hone their decision-making skills and develop their problem-solving abilities. It also inspires students in ways that conventional education techniques may not. Furthermore, the positive impact of technology extends beyond classroom-based learning and allows young children to handle different kinds of challenges and roadblocks independently from an early age.

Balancing the two sides of the coin

Given how technology affects children both positively and adversely, the onus to balance these two sides of the coin falls on parents and guardians. And as a parent, you can begin by ensuring that your children use technology in moderation. Encourage your kids to engage in other tech-free activities such as reading, playing board games, and even conventional, unstructured outdoor play. You could also limit screen time before bed. Another excellent strategy to minimize the adverse impact of excessive tech usage is to set aside some unplugged time for everyone in your family.

The key is to use technology in moderation, so your children can develop the skills associated with tech-driven solutions as well as with tech-free activities. Excessive dependence on gadgets and new-age devices could keep your children from developing adequate social skills, while too much of a tech-averse environment could prevent them from picking up the talents associated with exposure to technology. By creating an environment that balances these two aspects, you can ensure that your child enjoys the best of both worlds.

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Mangesh Sawant

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