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Is Your Smartphone Putting Your Toddler at Risk?

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Updated: Friday, April 8, 2016

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about distracted drivers and the impact cell phones are having on our road skills. Unfortunately, our love of technology and handheld devices also affect our family’s health in ways we can’t have imagined. As parents, it is important to understand the ways mobile phone exposure can affect a child's wellness.

Listed below are ten ways our Smartphone use might be putting our children at risk:

Distracted parenting can hinder a child’s vocabulary, which affects their future education. Researchers have conducted several studies on young children and what factors impact their I.Q. levels and performance in school. The largest determining factor that caught the eye of the experts was the amount of words young children heard. As early as the age of three, researchers found a strong correlation between higher I.Q. scores and the number of words young children heard. The study concluded that the more words parents spoke to their children, the faster the child’s vocabularies grew which impacted intelligence later in life.

Young children need interaction and contact to bond. Researchers are adamant about the importance of forming a solid parental attachment. Children with secure attachments are able to regulate their emotions, self-esteem, and self-control better. They also perform better in school and have a better ability to get along better with others. Infants and toddlers may miss out on this bonding if we are focused on our Smartphones.

There is a strong correlation between our love of social media, Facebook envy, and growing narcissism in children. Our children witness perfectly groomed social media pages and our need to project a perfect image into the digital world. We are sending the message that it is alright to be self-absorbed. This can lead to feelings of entitlement and an increased sense of importance. Our behaviors are setting up our children to feel inadequate with reality, which can lead them to experience depression or self-harm behaviors.

Smartphones can cause feelings of jealousy in our children. A study conducted by Catherine Steiner-Adair, author and psychologist at Harvard, noticed that all children had feelings of exhaustion, frustration, and anger when they have technology to compete with for their parent’s attention. This study likened these feelings to the jealousness of sibling rivalry.

Analyzed data shows that technology affects the way our brain processes information. The fast paced world of digital technology has the potential to rewire the brain to affect memory skills and attention spans. A lot of research has shown this to be true in adults, but because children’s brains are still forming it is assumed the changes could impact the brain’s development in ways not seen before.

Reliance on our Smartphones can expose our youth to a sedentary lifestyle. If a child’s parents are not active the chances are high that the child will also be sedentary. A less active lifestyle increases the chances a child will become obese or develop diabetes. Parents need to make a conscious effort to keep our children moving and healthy.

Data reveals that small children and fetuses absorb radiation from wireless devices two times the rate of adults. There is a long held debate about whether there is a link between cancer and cell phones. Whether or not that is the case, consider the fact that almost all manufacturers have guidelines that recommend distances devices should be kept away from a body. It is always better to be safe than suffer from regret later- look for handsfree options and be aware of where you store your cell phone while pregnant.

Smartphones can limit quality family time. Whether we are distracted by work emails or cute YouTube videos, Smartphones can steal precious moments away from the family. Set aside certain hours each day to power down and connect with your family.

Children learn through play and interacting with their environment. If we are preoccupied with our Smartphones or our children just want to play a few rounds of Flappy Bird, they could be missing out on important play time. Many educators believe that powerful learning takes place during play and parents need to make sure our devices aren’t getting in the way of this development.

Smartphones might lead to our children being addicted to the Internet. Think of a Smartphone as a gateway device to the world of fast paced social media and games. In 2013, “Internet Use Disorder” was registered in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. To be included as a true addiction, there had to be evidence that digital activity can change the chemistry of the brain and produce dopamine similar to what occurs in the brain of alcoholics and drug addicts.

Smartphones have many positive attributes, but they can also impair our family life. Parents need monitor their use in our homes and be aware of how our love of technology is impacting our children. After all, we ultimately want the best for our children and moderation can help us find the right balance of Smartphone use while parenting.

Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.

Tags:  child development  technology 

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