Opinion: The Danger of Using Technology to Babysit Our Youth


Photo by Emily Wade on Unsplash

Parents have normalized the use of electronic devices to babysit their children, a trend that could bring a lot of unintended consequences to their development. As someone who works with kids, I’m constantly trying to keep them focused on their activities without using electronic devices.

According to studies, 87 percent of children watch TV, computers, smartphones and tablets more often than is recommended. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics analyzed brain scans of young children and found that kids ages three to five had underdeveloped white matter in their brains if they watched screens for more than an hour a day.

It is noticeable that children raised in the environment we live in today are used to having cellphones around them all the time. At this point, technology has become part of their basic needs. But the results of so much phone time can be damaging.

Now, evidence is showing that parents’ educational level can also have an impact on children’s screen usage. For instance, children of parents who only hold a high school diploma or a GED were more likely to participate in too much screen time. So were children of first-time mothers and those who were twins.

On the other hand, those children who go to a daycare center with structured activities were less likely to overuse screens as often. Similarly, a National Institutes of Health study found that screen time fell by children ages seven or eight when they attended schools where tablets and phones weren’t available.

Still, as a teacher’s aide, I’ve spent enough time with children to observe their behavior and to see how they are affected by an excess of screen time growing up. Even though they are apart from their smartphones when they are at school, most of what the kids seem to talk – and think – about is based on what they see on the internet: a new trend, a new toy, a new dance, a new hairstyle. They reproduce what they see.

There are a lot of other options to entertain a child; for example, by giving them toys, books and instruments rather than a gadget with a screen. We are raising a new generation and we shouldn’t use all the technology we have if it is going to harm our kids’ brains.