Technology Is Changing How Kids Think & Focus

Anita Campbell
County Reporter
Computers, cell phones and tablets have all become a part of everyday life for most people, but how has it affected children? From television to the internet, technology has changed the way that children play and interact with each other.  Although technology does provide many potential benefits for learning, it also can have several negative effects on child development and quality of life.
Warsaw resident Kenzi Wilson is the mother of two school age boys and a baby girl. “My boys have tablets,  they are allowed to use them after homework is done, and they have to be off them by 8:00 at night. They will try to go behind my back when I go to bed and sneak on them, so I have started taking all devices to bed with me,” said Wilson.
One of the biggest differences in the way that children live today is that they don’t get as much exercise as they used to. This is because technology such as computers, smart phones and television encourages them to be sedentary when they get home from school, as opposed to going outside and playing with other kids. Child obesity rates have risen drastically over the past several decades. In 2012, the child obesity rate was measured to be 18 percent, which is an 11 point difference from the obesity rate in 1980.
Warsaw resident Robert Chapman is the father of four children. “We did not allow our children to have phones until they were approximately 15 years old. They were so active in sports we got them phone so that we could keep track of them to be able to pick them up and to make sure that they were safe. All of my children have access to computers and or iPads of some sort. We try to limit their time on Video Games Etc. Our children  have always been active in sports and outside fishing swimming etcetera. My only frustration with electronics is video games and the distraction that they cause. I grew up before computers so it’s difficult for me to understand the concept of learning on a computer vs. reading a book. I realize that today’s kids are learning more by watching videos than by reading books. I wish I knew more about what sites and what videos to go to in order to help educate them better,” said Chapman.
The Internet holds a vast amount of information.  One estimate holds that information doubles in the world every 72 days. The Library of Congress catalogues over 7,000 new items each day. More than 2,000 new websites go online each day. A minimum of two thousand books are published world wide each day. 
British author and psychologist David Lewis, Ph.D., says that “having too much information can be as dangerous as having too little. It can lead to a paralysis of analysis, making it harder to find the right solutions or make decisions.” Our kids are having to learn how to deal with a world of unrelenting exponential growth of information. 
Warsaw R-9 teacher Amber DeLozier said, “As a parent, I try to limit the amount of time that my children are in front of a screen. I collect their cell phones and tablets during dinner time to ensure we have uninterrupted family time. I feel like our children are growing up with way too much information and exposure at their fingertips. It’s my job as a mother to do my best to protect them and teach them what is right and wrong, when it comes to using technology. They need to be taught to be responsible with the access they have. Technology is not going away, therefore our children need to know how to use it correctly,” said DeLozier.  “As an educator, I try to incorporate technology into my lessons on a daily basis. The current generation of kids are so accustomed to using technology everyday, therefore it makes sense to use it in the classroom. I am trying to teach them to use their resources to the fullest potential. Technology gives them the ability to be creative and share their work on a larger scale. For instance, we use a website called Storybird in writing class. The students get to create original stories online based off of existing illustrations. They can then share their stories privately or publicly and get instant feedback from their peers. We also use Google Apps on a daily basis. Students can collaborate with one another instantly from any location.”
With the emergence of the Web, e-mail, mobile phones with cameras, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, gossip web sites, there are newer, faster and more creative ways to have dreadful decision making illuminated for anyone with an Internet connection to see. The technological developments of the last decade have made poor decision making easier, more immediate and more widely consequential. Technology discourages children from thinking and deliberation and promotes acting on their most base impulses, emotion and needs - anger, fear or the need for approval. 
A mother of two, Kayla RedWing is also concerned about what her children are exposed to with technology. “My 6 year old son Bentley enjoys Xbox one and iPad videos. This can easily turn into an unhealthy obsession which it did for a short time in our home. His mood was affected negatively. As a family we needed to set limits on this just as we would with anything else. He now sets his timer for 30 minutes of Xbox and 30 minutes of IPad time daily. When the timer goes off he shuts them off. After a few days, technology was no longer a battle. Setting limits, following through and allowing independence by having him set his own timer and putting a check mark on his daily list has been successful and can be doable for any family.”
Poorly thought-out reaction can now occur in a matter of seconds, with fewer than 140 characters, and can subsequently be broadcast to millions in a matter of minutes. Making horrendous decisions has never been easier or faster for children. The immediate and collateral damage can be staggering in comparison to generations past.
Daycare owner Rhonda Flinn is also a mother.  “We use to let our children play on their iPads a lot but after a bit they were spending too much time on them and not on their studies so the screen time is limited. My older girls  have cell phones. They spend more time on them than I would like,” said Flinn.
Too much screen time and not enough other activities, such as reading, playing games, and good old unstructured and imaginative play, will result in children having their brains wired in ways that may make them less, not more, prepared to thrive in this crazy new world of technology.
Tamena Estes, a mother of four, said, “My children did not receive a cell phone until they began 7th grade sports and even then they had restrictions applied. There were time restrictions and their phones had to be turned in at night. Once they hit high school they no longer had to turn it in unless we felt they were abusing the privilege. We also have the rule that nothing is private. If we ask for your phone you have ten seconds to lay it in my hand or it is gone. I feel with all the peer pressure they experience this helps them with things they may be scared to share, for instance a friend having a crisis that they may not want to betray them but know they need help with it. I also feel this helps to keep them accountable for how they are using their device. Technology can be good and evil, but it is up to us as parents to guide, teach, and monitor how our children are going to advance with it.”
The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents and caregivers develop a family media plan that takes into account the health, education and entertainment needs of each child as well as the whole family.
Former Benton County Presiding Commissioner Michelle Kreisler is also the mother of twin girls.  “My girls got their cell phones during their 7th grade year. They are turned into me for charging overnight. I have passwords and review apps and activity on a periodic basis. I want them to learn how to manage their time on technology. One day they won’t have me there telling them no!”
“Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep,” said Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “Media and Young Minds,” which focuses on infants, toddlers and pre-school children. “What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn
Among the AAP recommendations:
For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health. 
Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
Today’s generation of children and adolescents is growing up immersed in media. This includes platforms that allow users to both consume and create content, including broadcast and streamed television and movies, sedentary and active video games, social and interactive media that can be creative and engaging, and even highly immersive virtual reality.
Warsaw High School English teacher Amanda Adler uses technology in her classroom every day.  “The internet has changed the way we teach research and the way our students learn,” said Adler. “When I was a student at WHS, the teacher would take us to the library to search for books, magazines and newspaper files but now all that information can be obtained by searching the web.”
Technology advances have made it much easier to search for answers to almost every question.  The cell phone has replaced the encyclopedia, the calculator and even the watch.  There is no question that the world has changed a great deal because of advancements in technology but teaching children how to use that technology is something that parents and teachers need to do.