The Benefits and Costs of Kids and Electronics

There are so many electronic devices for kids in our modern world. What are the benefits and costs of children using them? How much should you allow your kids to engage electronically?

sesame street, electronics

Perhaps an equally important question is: What activities are your children passing up while they are hooked up to the two-dimensional world of the internet, video games, and the rest of the gamut of electronic devices out there?  Are there social opportunities, quality family times, or access to the outdoors, fresh air and exercise, that are missed because your child is mesmerized by the bells and whistles of their devices?

Socrates had a great idea!  Everything in moderation.  Setting time limits on your child’s engagement with their devices, appears to be the best way to strike a healthy balance.  This balance should reflect your child’s age and take into account the time she spends in various pursuits, left to her own devices!  If your daughter or son is entertaining friends, into sports, and has a full life with a number of interests, it is fine to allow more time with the computer, X-box, etc.  However, if you have to drag your child (symbolically, of course) away from the gadgets, a shorter span of time allotted for the electronics is in order.  Instead of having a power struggle with your child about this, set firm time limits on the devices, and stick  to them.  Then, when your kid is widening her world with other activities, it is okay to reward her with small amounts of extra time on her favorite device, or play with her!

girl, cell phone

There are definite advantages to most electronics.  For instance, the Leap Pad is full of learning games, reading, and math options, and will very likely give a child a huge boost on their school work.  (No, I’m not a paid spokesman for the product!)  Video games accelerate hand-eye coordination, mental acuity, and can lengthen attention spans.  Cell phones are potential life-savers if a child is in a dangerous position and needs help.  Having a few devices is also a boon to your child’s social development.  Other kids are likely to have at least one electronic gadget, and if your child doesn’t have any, there’s one less bridge between them.  Video games, cell phones, and other electronics provide a shared activity for kids.  There’s only a problem when kids are too focused on the gadgets, or their plugged-in pursuits include violent or adult themes.

The internet (with appropriate filters) can help with academic work, and expose your child to an enormous amount of information that will expand your child’s intellectual world a thousand-fold, and give your child a cultural passport to anywhere in the planet, or to the galaxies for that matter.

safeguards, kids, internet

Naturally, safeguards have to be put in place, to protect your children from  online predators.  For instance, having the computer in a common area, rather than your child’s bedroom is essential.  Checking the history on the computer, and lettting your child know that you will do this routinely, reduces temptations to meander into forbidden territories.  Teaching your kids what information is okay to share online, and what they should never say there, is crucial.  It is of utmost import though, that you also instruct them to NEVER arrange to meet anyone, without your express permission and accompaniment.  This can save their lives!  This is a topic that should be an ongoing dialogue rather than a one-time discussion.

In conclusion, electronic devices can add to our lives, and our children’s lives, but if they too often replace or make us miss real life and precious moments too often, then the gadgets can steal from us.  The devices are representative of a two-dimensional, and frequently smaller world than what can be experienced while we’re unplugged.  How are our habits with electronics either adding to our lives with our children, or taking from them and us?

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