The Media Technology and its effects on Child Development….

mummiefbDr. Sarita Bhargava – Pediatrician.
Qualified PALS by Indian Academy of Pediatrics.
Author of a very popular book ‘Your Precious Gem & You’.


The main environmental factor influencing development of the child is the modern media technology . The child is exposed to the modern electronic devices since birth . It has been observed that these children easily learn the operation of these devices. It was predicted that by the end of 2013 teledensity in India will rise to 75%, approximately 1.159 billion people will be using the mobile phones .

The television came to the Indian society in the decade of seventies . The eighties was the era of Doordarshan when shows like Buniyad , Chitrahar , Rangoli etc. were broadcasted . Doordarshan started the colour TV coverage during the Delhi Asian games in November 1982 . At present there are thousands of TV programs in India which can be seen in the various languages . The Hindi TV industry is the biggest . More than half of all the Indian households own one or more TV sets.

The first mobile phone in India was launched on 31. 7 .1996 and it was Motorola who made the first handset . India’s telecommunication network is the second biggest in the world based on the total number of telephone users both fixed and mobile phones . In addition to the telephony modern mobile phones support a variety of services as text messaging , email , internet access , short range wireless communication (blue tooth ), business applications , gaming and photography. Mobile phones that offer these and more general computing capabilities are called smart phones . Today the cell phones have become a necessity . TV , computers , video games , mobile phones , ipads are amongst the most widely used media appliances which are engaging children from an early age for variable length of time . The Collins English dictionary includes media as communication , magazines and the TV . The new type of media (modern )include internet , computers , videogames , DVD . The twenty first century children and youth are wired like never before . They have never known a world without cell phones . Children believe in spending more time in front of the screens rather than doing the routine school work , outdoor play and other social activities .

kids & electronicsVIDEO GAMES :They are the commonest indoor games which we see children playing . Children are allowed to play these games to keep themselves busy , parent in the mean time finishes her routine housework . The choice of the games has to be proper . It has been observed that games giving information about the academics , those involving the problem solving skills help in increasing the learning ability of the children. Parents should be very selective in choosing the games for their children . Games having violence should not be allowed .

INTERNET-It is the most recent new media technology . Internet has made the world a very small place to live in .By using the internet one can be updated with the major happenings around the world in a few seconds. It provides a lot of information on any topic within a very short time . To progress, it is very important that we communicate with each other . Communication is a prerequisite for any new activity . Therefore while considering the means of automated communication the factor of accesssing new media is very important . Today’s generation of older adults lags far behind the younger ones in respect to the computer technology and the internet .Internet is the fastest mode of communication by which one can email , make new friends , download , shares views , pictures , ideas and much more.Our honourable Prime Minister is working hard to digitalise INDIA. .

TELEVISION: Researchers insist that TV watching should not be permitted below 2 years age . After this the children can be permitted, but for very short periods only . The school going children can be allowed to watch the TV for about 10 hours in a week . Watching TV affects the sleep , study and meals . The parental attitude towards the TV plays a major role . If both the parents spend their spare time in watching TV the children invariably imbibe the habit of sitting in front of screen . This is because they copy the habits of the parents . Many times the parents allow them indefinite TV time so that they can complete their scheduled work . Literate parents allow them to watch the educational programs . Initially these parents allow them to view the cartoon characters and ask them to sketch out the same cartoons to improve their fine motor skills for drawing . To avoid improper meal habits and preventing sleep problems TV viewing should not be permitted with meals , and there should be no TV in the bedroom . The TV is to be in the common room and the parents should enquire the reason for viewing the particular program from the children . When there are multiple TV sets in the house the children watch the adult programs which may have a bad effect on his mind . The TV can be a useful means for mass teaching programs It is being adopted in the schools with the presumption that children retain what they see fast and for a longer time .

Harmful effects –

  1. Children who are permitted to watch the TV before 2 years age have delayed language development .
  2. They have reduced attention paying capacity
  3. Children demand the products they see being advertised. Many of these products are costly and unhealthy . This imposes an additional economic burden on the family for purchasing them .
  4. Children are exposed to violence . When they watch the serials of violence they come to believe that violence is an acceptable way of solving conflicts .
  5. Those children who are allowed to watch the fighting programs develop an aggressive nature , unfriendly and revengeful thoughts come to harbour their minds . Children are exposed to pornography and they may become addicted to it .
  6. They may imitate the risk taking behaviour as jumping from heights like superman or try to copy the cycle stunts which can cause them physical harm .
  7. Eating disorders are seen in the form of taking excessive snacks while sitting in front of the screen . They may be chips , biscuits or any food stuff of their choice .While watching the serial CHOTA BHIM one of my friend’s son has become addicted to eating the laddus like the CHOTA BHIM and has become obese .They also take the colas and the fruit juices . Children start smoking and consuming alcohol by experimenting after they have seen serials in which these habits are practised by the actors . By watching the adverse programs regarding sex the teenagers face teenage pregnancies .
  8. In families where there is too much TV viewing , family problems are not solved as all the members are busy in watching the screen and we see cases of anxiety / depression in the members .
  9. Children are not able to concentrate in studies . Their minds are distracted by the oncoming programs which they want to watch .
  10. They become sedentary by sitting in front of the screen , do not have outdoor play activity . This leads to obesity which itself has many complications in later life .
  11. Watching TV can induce seizures in the epileptic patients . The children can have night mares when they have seen frightening scenes just before going to bed . TV news of disasters can also cause night mares . Sleep problems occur when the TV is watched for a longer time till late hours and is in the bedroom of the child .
  12. Too much viewing causes shortsightedness , disrupts the hormonal balance , increases the risk of cancer and pre mature puberty . It decreases metabolism leading to obesity which leads to Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 followed by later complications of Diabetes commonest being the heart disease .

EFFECT OF MOBILE PHONES –

mobile phoneThe earliest age when the child can be allowed to use the cell phone should be the school going age that is when the child starts going to school . At this time he is able to understand its usefulness. Parents can hand over the phone to him for knowing his whereabouts . They can know the reason for staying till late hours in school . The child if having the phone can inform his mother that he will be in school till late hours .

The use of mobile phones causes early aging of the brain cells.The harmful effects are due to the emitted electromagnetic radiation which are absorbed by the brain through the ear .The effects which have been noted are headaches , lack of concentration , memory loss and sleeping disorders . Children are more vulnerable as they are physically weaker and their immune system is in the developing stage . The rays harm the body cells damaging the DNA. Multiplication of mutated cells is the cause of cancer . Prolonged use of mobile phones lead to acoustic neuroma a benign tumour of the auditory nerve . Use of ear phones and hands free devices increase the radiation exposure . Children absorb about double the amount of radiations when compared to adults . It is seen that the parents get addicted to use mobile phones . They keep on talking , do not pay attention to the children who are seen pulling the mother’s apparels to seek attention , children feel ignored and start using the phone or watching the TV . Being involved too much with the mobile phones the mothers do not spend quality time with the children in teaching their toddlers ,as a result these children are left behind in language development . At times the parent busy talking with one phone hands over the second one to the youngster to keep him busy till he completes his conversation .Use of mobile phones for 2 minutes by children alters the brain waves for about an hour . In this period there is lack of concentration , memory loss , and inability to learn leading to aggressive behaviour. Immunity to infection is altered by interference with chemical balances in the brain . Hence the use of mobile phones should be restricted to very short periods by individuals of all ages .

HAZARDS OF MEDIA TECHNOLOGY –

(TV , INTERNET , VIDEO GAMES , IPADS , CELL PHONES )

  1. The technology is a challenge to development of imagination and creativity .
  2. Challenge to optimal physical development due to lack of sensory stimulation and motor development children have delayed milestones . These children do not develop the attention skills necessary for learning . Due to the sedentary habits their sensory , motor skills and attachment do not develop properly leading to physical ,psychological problems , childhood obesity , diabetes , ADHD , autism , coordination disorder , sleep disorders , development delays , unintelligible speech and learning difficulties .

The factors necessary to achieve healthy development are 1. Movement , 2.Touch ,.3.Human connection , 4. Exposure to nature . These inputs ensure necessary development of positive bilateral coordination , optimal arousal states and self regulation necessary for achieving skills for entering school . Atleast 2-3 hours of rough active tumble play per day is required for adequate sensory stimulation to the vestibular , proprioceptive and tactile systems (touching , hugging and play .)Touch activates parasympathetic system , lowers cortisol and anxiety . Nature has a calming effect ,restores attention and promotes learning . The visual and the auditory systems are overburdened , sensory imbalance occurs and neurological development suffers as the brain’s chemistry is altered .Children exposed to violence through TV and video games have a high level of stress which leads to increased adrenalin causing increased breathing , heart rate , shakiness and uneasiness. Stress weakens the immune system causing serious diseases. Spelling and language skills decline as children start using SMS languages as y for why , U for YOU . Porning is easily accessible and is highly addictive .

Cell phones encourage cheating using the internet or saving the answers in the cell phones .

Cell phones are posing challenges for the parents , high phone bills , sexting incidents , texting while driving . Kids disturb the class with ringing phones and use texting to bully kids . It is a challenge to monitor small screens . Schools should not permit children to carry mobile phones inside the classes . If the phones are to be permitted in school as emergency measures there should be a collecting store in the school office for the time of classes . In this way the children can be prevented from carrying the phone in the class.

Click to BuyBoundaries for all phones – When the parents decide to give the cell phone to the child they should explain to him clearly regarding its use . The phone should be a simple one by which the child is able to call home about his whereabouts . The plan allowed to the child should be fixed for the month . No recharging should be allowed between the fixed period . If the child finishes the amount before the scheduled recharge he should be allowed to be without the phone .This will teach the child to be disciplined while using the phone .

Computers should be kept in the common place of your house . This holds true for the TV also. None of these devices are to be allowed in the rooms of the children . Establish a bed time and a wake up time for these devices . It is advised that the wi-fi should be switched off at night . Mobile appliances have changed the way that kids use the technology . Child’s option for better phones will continue to increase as will the ways in which he can interact with the people . Talk to your child about the manner of using the cell phones .

Rather than hugging , playing , housing and conversing parents are seen providing TV , video games , Ipads , cell phones creating a deep and irreversible chasm between the parent and his child .Parents allow the children to watch TV till late hours because according to them it is safer to make the children sit in front of the screen rather than hanging out in the neighbourhood .

THE MAIN IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON THE DEVELOPING CHILD ACCORDING TO CRIS ROWAN IS THE LACK OF INTERACTION WITH FAMILY AND THE PEERS . Children spend about 53 hours a week on cell phones , internet and videos .

ADVANTAGES OF THE DIGITAL AGE –

The exposure develops skills which are critical to their academic success and their capacity to compete in the global economy . The same screen gives them the access to a world of information . Children in addition to the entertainment and communication are consuming powerful messages , stories and images that will shape their understanding ofwho they are and how should they act to look and think .

SOCIAL NETWORING SITES-

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95%of the teens are now online and 80% of those are users of the social media sites . Online social networking is when kids connect with other people online through special websites . The most common include the FACEBOOK , MYSPACE AND TWITTER. Each person creates her own account and page , posts information , photos , videos and comments on it . The kid friends a person on the site after which the latter can access the kid’s page . Children should be guided about online safety . Children below 13 years are not allowed to sign up but we see many children lying about their age accessing these sites . The children should have an understanding of using the settings so that they can restrict the information to their friends only . The option of blocking prevents the undesired persons from viewing the page . Parents can become friends of their kids and keep awatch on what is going on . Many times the children at puberty defriends their parents –teenage separation . The child should be told that cyberbullying , sexting and inappropriate postings are not allowed .Social networks are created by complex interactions between many places. New ways are developed all the time so it is important to maintain open communication with your child about her social networking .

BENEFITS OF ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKING –

  1. The children gain self confidence by interacting with other people on line which may help them feel more secure in situations of going to a new college .
  2. Kids become familiar with new emerging technologies .
  • Many isolated kids find support in online communities specially when they are having unique interests . They are able to find friends of like minds and common interests .Online communication exposes the children to new ideas and opinions.
  • Children can keep in touch with family members who are living far away by sharing photographs , videos and messages . Social networking has become an important method of communicating in schools and in work places .

Teachers are using these sites to communicate with students or for out of classroom discussions . Youth can explore topics of interest and exchange views with others having the same interest . The teachers also take the advantage of students’ social networking abilities to create class blogs , discussion forums and videos . Students collaborate with each other and build stronger school communities .

Recent data suggests that social networking has surpassed the emails . The lack of maturity in the tweens and teens and life experience can get them in trouble with new social venues . It is important that parents talk with children of all ages about social media and monitor them to help them navigate the new online social world . Parents should

1. Learn about these new technologies and should keep themselves updated . 2. They should enquire from their children daily about using the computer , internet and know from them about their doings. 3.Keep the computer in the common place of the house . 4. Take opinion of other parents on using the internet and social media sites . 5. Emphasize to send good text as it can be shared all over the world .Set up the privacy settings appropriately . 6. Discuss with kids the consequences of poor judgement ranging from minor punishment to legal action in sexting or bullying . Sexting is sending or receiving a sexually explicit text , image or video on the mobile phone usually in a text message . 7. Discourage kids for spreading rumours , bullying or damaging reputation . 8. Check the chat logs , emails , files and social networking profiles for in appropriate contents . Let your child know what you are doing .

BEWARE –

  1. Child is losing weight
  2. Drop in grades in school
  3. Multi tasking can be dangerous as talking on mobiles while driving . Talk to your child about this matter .

ONLINE –SAFETY –

Did you know –

  1. Kids who are educated in online safety are more likely to take steps to keep themselves safe online .
  2. One out of five teenagers use their cellphones for going online . Of those who do one out of five says that their parents are not knowing about this .
  3. One out of two that is half of the teenagers post their real age on social networking sites . 2 out of 5 post the correct name of the city where they live .
  4. 25%of 13-15 year s old think it unsafe to post personal stuff .
  5. 2out of 5 are exposed to pornography online
  6. Two out of three consider cyberbullying to be a serious problem .

Children connect to it , download , watch , listen ,play and surf on it . They converse with it . How can the parent monitor ?It is the duty of the parent to keep them safe online .

  1. Content blockers and filters are great tools to be used for younger children . These allow you more control over where they go and what they do online . A content blocker blocks sites with explicit material or limits a child’s search to a predetermined set of sites . A content filter scans the sites and images and blocks those that contains certain words , key phrases or content .
  2. Consider tracking soft ware for older teenagers . You can see which sites the children have visited by tracking them online . It allows you to verify how the internet is being used . Let your teenager know that you trust him but periodically you will be verifying .
  3. Be vigilant as the kids find ways to get around the above two .
  4. All adult sites cannot be identified by the blocker , filter or software tracker . Talk to your kids about what to do when something scarry pop ups.
  5. Supervise on the manner of using the internet .