Twenty years ago, people didn’t have cell phones. Very few had computers in their homes, and if they did, they either didn’t have internet or used dial-up, which they couldn’t use if someone needed the phone (which, by the way, was attached to the wall). Using cell phones and tablets were not an option for most people, and especially for children.

With the explosion of computers, the Internet, and mobile devices, technology has become an important part of our daily lives, and especially of our children. Today’s kids never knew there was a time when smartphones, iPads, and other mobile devices didn’t exist, and many have never experienced being truly disconnected from the world.

Cell phones, tablets and the effect of technology on children

Although there are benefits to technology, the constant use of cell phones and tablets by children can have a detrimental impact on their growth, development, and well-being. It’s hard to deny a child who begs you to have a cell phone of their own like many of the kids in their class, there are several compelling reasons why you shouldn’t allow your kids to have their own mobile device.

Why a child under 12 should not use cell phones or tablets

Technology, especially by hand that can go with you everywhere, immerses children in a virtual world that lacks important factors for learning, behavior and development.

1. It can increase aggression

It is not easy to control what type of media your children are watching, especially when they have access to the Internet through their phone or tablet wherever they are, with or without you. Exposure to violent media, especially violent video games and online games, has been strongly associated with antisocial tendencies and aggressive thoughts, behaviors, and actions.

2. Potential for addiction

The frontostriatal pathway, which is the same neural pathway linked to drug addiction and behavioral disorders, such as gambling, is also associated with certain types of media. Giving your children unlimited access to the internet, social media, and video games through a smartphone or tablet increases your child’s risk of developing these problems on their own, along with a real addiction to technology.

3. Learning difficulties

Using cell phones or tablets as children means access to multiple forms of entertainment at the same time. This makes them more easily distracted and develop an inability to pay attention in class. Along with attention deficits comes impairment of visual memory, imagination, and the ability to work efficiently and effectively or focus on a task.

4. Social interactions and anxiety

Our children’s increasing dependence on technology is impairing the development of face-to-face social skills. Texting affects the way they learn to express themselves through body language, tone, touch, voice, and facial expression, as well as how they understand those signals from other people.

Children are also not learning how to deal with their problems and have difficult conversations, often falling back on sending a text or email instead of talking to that person directly. All of this is seriously affecting our ability to communicate and have meaningful interactions and relationships with others.

5. Exposure to radiation

A child’s head is twice as capable of absorbing radiation, and the bone marrow of the skull absorbs ten times the radiation of an adult. Although we still do not know all the effects of radiation when using the cell phone, we know that it increases the risk of developing brain tumors and cancer. More studies are needed on wireless radiation and its effects on children’s brain development.

6. Increases the risk of obesity

There have been several studies that demonstrate the correlation between the use of technology and the increase in BMI (Body Mass Index) in children and adolescents. This is largely because the more hours kids spend on technology, the more time they spend sedentary rather than on activities that keep them active. To complicate matters further, children who spend most of their time using cell phones, tablets, computers, and video games also tend to eat more while eating and consume more calories.

7. Sleep poorly from using cell phones for a long time

Children, and especially teenagers, need more sleep each night than adults. Although they should get 8.5-10 hours of sleep each night, most are getting only 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep, and many are getting even less. Using cell phones and screens , especially in the few hours leading up to bedtime, directly interferes with both the amount of sleep and the quality of sleep. Although scientists are just beginning to understand the complexity of what happens in our bodies while we sleep, one thing we know for sure and that is how important sleep is for growing and developing children.

8. Mental health

There are a number of implications that cell phone use has on the mental health of our children. Children are now exposed to the media every day with suggestive messages that tell how they should think, feel, act and look. There are a number of factors that cell phones and constant connection have on children’s mental health:

  • Cyberbullying: Children today are at a much higher risk for cyberbullying, which can lead to depression, anxiety, extreme isolation, and even suicide.
  • Sexual pressure: When on their smartphones, children can be exposed to suggestive images and pressured to engage in “sexting” long before they are able to properly understand and process those topics. This pressure can result in anguish, mental and emotional.
  • Facebook depression: it is well known that people only post things about their life on social media that they want you to see Children do not necessarily have the consciousness of realizing this, and therefore they compare the mundane parts of their lives with only the exciting parts of others. This leaves them feeling depressed about their life, abilities, or appearance.
  • Targeted Advertising: Social media and other websites collect information about you based on your profile, what you like, and what you post, and then use that information to show only ads that you are likely interested in. . Like Facebook or MySpace, they require users to be at least 13 years old in accordance with the law that does not allow collecting information from people under the age of 13, many children still use these sites anyway. They are then exposed to advertisements and media that they are unwilling to deal or process with properly.

9. Decreases health

Studies show that the use of media and technology promotes discomfort among children and young people, regardless of lack of exercise and poor nutrition. In general, the more children use and are exposed to technology such as cell phones and tablets, the more likely they are to have physical ailments, as well as mental and emotional difficulties. They are more likely to get sick, have physical pain, depression, learning and social disabilities.

10. Bad posture from using cell phones

As children spend more and more of their time on phones, computers, and tablets, we see a deterioration in their posture. These children are more likely to adopt sustained and often awkward postures than are seen in adults with certain musculoskeletal disorders. More studies are needed on the long-term effects of “cell phone pose” in children.

11. Visual tension

Prolonged use of screens can cause digital eye strain in both adults and children, however the way children use technology puts them at particular risk of damaging their vision. While more studies need to be done on the long-term impact of screen time on children’s vision as they grow, symptoms such as headaches, sore eyes, and blurred vision are common.
How to prevent your children from becoming addicted to screens

As you can see, there are many reasons why children should not use cell phones and tablets on a regular basis , with new discoveries every day. Here are some tips on how parents can limit screen time for their children:

  • In good weather (for example, summer holidays) screens, including TV and computer, are not allowed only for a certain number of hours each day, for example, from 9 or 10 am until 4 or 5 pm. Encourage your children to spend that time playing outside with you, their siblings, or their friends.
  • Set the rules about at what age you will allow your child to have a cell phone, for example: until they are in high school, or until they have their driver’s license.
  • If you let your child use cell phones, you have control over their cell phone plan. Make sure their phone is limited to no data usage, so they can only access the internet when they are connected to Wifi.
  • Have rules about when and where technology can be used in your home. For example, don’t allow phones or tablets on the table at meal times, which allows for conversation and quality family time.
  • No tech at least 30 minutes before bed (or preferably longer). Instead, encourage them to spend that time reading or playing.
  • Set time limits on television and Internet time, for example: They are only allowed to watch two TV shows or a movie per night, and when using the computer or tablet they are only allowed 30 minutes to an hour. The rest of the time they have to find something else to do.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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