The average seven-year-old European spends more than a year of his still short life at the screen of a gadget, while an 18-year-old has spent more than four years. But is the smartphone as scary as it is painted? Watching what the child is doing, looking at the screen.
Whether it is worth giving a gadget to a kid is an open question. Not only for parents, but also for scientists. Research on this issue often yields varying results. And they can only cover certain aspects of the problem.
It was - it was
Meanwhile, the life of the modern generation, in contrast to the past, has changed dramatically. It is enough to consider the main stages of a child's development, analyzing what he was doing some 10-20 years ago, and what - now.
The first stage - infancy - begins at birth and lasts up to one to one and a half years. During this period, the most important thing in a child's life is emotional communication with the mother or with the one who replaces her. It is at this time that basic trust or distrust in the world develops and fine motor skills develop. In general, there are few changes at this stage, except that modern children are more limited in movement and movement compared to their peers of past years: they are trying to lock them in an arena, fix them, they have to spend a lot of time in a car.
So that a child strapped to a child seat is not bored, he is given a gadget. The same thing happens, for example, in the queue at the clinic. This is how their first acquaintance goes.
In early childhood - from one and a half to three years - speech, attention, thinking, perception are actively developing, there is a study of the surrounding world. During this period, it is important to involve the child in household chores, to observe nature together, which is what the children of past years did. Today, many of them are much more likely to watch cartoons on their tablets than digging in the sandbox.
The task of the next period (preschool childhood), which lasts up to six years, is to develop in the child not only speech, but also self-identity, for which role-playing games, communication and objective activity are needed. Previously, preschool boys went fishing with their father, rummaged with him in the garage, girls helped their mother cook or played with dolls. Today, at this age, gadgets are rapidly entering the lives of children. According to UNESCO, 93 percent of today's babies three to five years old watch 28 hours a week at the screen, that is, about four hours every day, which is much higher than the time spent with adults.
No less sad is the statistics of the development of speech abilities. In the mid-1970s, speech problems were observed in four percent of children in Europe. Today that figure has risen to 25 percent. The fact is that it is not enough for a child to hear speech from a TV screen or tablet - he needs training, that is, direct communication.
At the primary school age - from six to 11 years - the intellectual sphere, voluntary attention and memory, the ability to act according to the rules develop, the child strives for self-affirmation, actively masters communication skills, learns to find friends. During this period, board developmental and outdoor games are important, and it is then that the child can get acquainted with electronic ones. It was like that before. Now a child by this age is no longer just familiar with gadgets - he literally disappears in a smartphone.
Not for little ones
But let's turn to specialists. Last year, Canadian scientists (Shari Medigan, Dillon Brown, and Nicole Racine from the University of Calgary) completed a five-year study of nearly 2,500 Canadian children (47.9 percent of them boys) and focused on the intellectual development of children. …On average, two-year-olds spent about 17 hours a week with gadgets, three-year-olds - 25 hours, five-year-olds - 10.8 hours. Cognitive development was assessed using the ASQ-3 test, a technique that detects developmental progress in children from one month to five years old.
The verdict of scientists turned out to be relentless: if the time of sitting in front of the screen of children at the age of two to three years is longer, it will lead to a slowdown in the growth of mental abilities by three to five years. At the same time, the researchers did not find feedback - this means that initially low IQ scores do not lead to the fact that the child will spend more time behind the screen.
"Developers" don't work
Another conclusion of scientists - this time Indian. A long-term study on this issue was completed a year ago. Scientists at the Institute of Technology (Neteji Sabhas and Savita Yadav) looked at how various educational YouTube videos affect children between the ages of six months and two years. As we remember, during this period the child learns new words and their active use. To do this, he needs games, communication with parents or reading books by them. The same good goal is pursued by various videos, as well as all kinds of educational games.
The study involved 55 children (at the initial stage, all of them were no more than six months, at the end - five years). It turned out that the learning effect of such videos is questionable: babies memorized new words only after their parents pronounced them. No intellectual development was observed. Moreover, experts noted that of all the videos, children preferred the nonsensical: colorful advertisements, videos showing toys and balloons, or several dancers. Scientists have come to the conclusion that educational programs, cartoons or games do not make any contribution to the development of a small child, they cannot teach him something new, and all that they are capable of is to entertain and distract.
At what age it is worth introducing a child to a tablet or smartphone, no one knows, but it seems that before the age of six it is worth doing it only very limitedly. However, the question is also how much the parents "stick" to the gadgets. A child is a mirror of his caregivers, he strives to be like them: even if they don’t give him a phone in principle, but at the same time they themselves have "grown together" with him, the kid will remember this. And the gadget will become a forbidden fruit for him - you can't get it, but you really want to.
And when it becomes possible (this will inevitably happen), a terrible thing can happen: the child will begin to compensate for everything that, in his opinion, he did not receive. As a result, he risks becoming extremely addicted to this subject. Therefore, parents should also limit their "pastime" with the device and not completely deprive the kid of acquaintance with him - in the world of technology, this can only harm. But it is necessary to limit their "communication".
The opinion of pediatricians on this matter is as follows: children between the ages of one and two years are advised to give a gadget for no more than a few minutes a day. Kids three to four years old - up to one hour, preschoolers and younger students (five to ten years old) - from one to one and a half hours a day, respectively.
And what about teenagers?
With them it is easier and more difficult at the same time. Psychologists from the University of Oxford recently conducted a large-scale study, which involved more than 355 thousand people. Scientists have tried to understand if there is a connection between mental disorders in adolescents and the use of gadgets. It turned out that there is some dependence between these factors, but it is small: only about 0.4 percent. Almost the same effect on this indicator is exerted by the consumption of milk and potatoes, that is, statistically none. Scientists have found that what is really capable of undermining the mental health of a teenager was known without them. This is smoking cigarettes, marijuana, as well as fights and bullying among peers.Adequate sleep, regular breakfast, and eating vegetables and fruits are positively correlated with mental health.
On the other hand, it is important what exactly the teenager uses his gadget for. And here the conclusions are no longer so unambiguous.
For example, American scientists from the Texas Tech University in Lubbock in January 2016 published disappointing data on the connection between video games and suicidal tendencies in adolescents of both sexes. The conclusions are that there is a connection - and an essential one. However, it is worth remembering that suicide is, in principle, a fairly “popular” death among American teenagers. So, in 2013, the number of deaths due to suicide among college students in the United States reached 4,878 people. Meanwhile, 70 percent of American teens admit to being addicted to video games.
The researchers also found that the genre of the game is not so important as the amount of time students devote to it. The more the worse. Although in the case of action games there is still a connection with the risk of developing suicidal tendencies, here, again, it all depends on the amount of time that the teenager spends on the game.
But a long-term study of scientists from Germany (from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development), the results of which were published in March 2018, showed that after two months of daily playing GTA V, the aggressiveness of users does not increase. True, it was not about internal aggression (a tendency to self-destruction), but about external, aimed at the outside world. And in the experiment, not children, but adults took part: 48 women and 42 men, whose average age is 28 years. Some other studies only talk about short-term external aggression after such games. In general, these people do not pose a greater threat to those around them than others. But we are talking about adults. There is no reliable data on children yet.
Social media is evil
The results of another study published last year and conducted by scientists at the University of Southern California under the direction of Adam Leventhal were also unfortunate. For two years, scientists observed 2587 adolescents (average age - 15, 5 years). It turned out that among those who rarely used the Internet, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was observed in only five percent of cases, while those who often logged on to the Internet (12 to 14 times a day) suffered from ADHD symptoms in 11 16 percent of the time. But most of all, attention deficit disorder is characteristic of users who, of all Internet activities, prefer social networks.
It is worth remembering that ADHD is a serious thing: it is responsible for disrupting the synthesis of "happiness hormones" - the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. In addition, children with this syndrome have difficulty concentrating and are impulsive.
Nevertheless, the authors of the article note that the connection between the presence of ADHD and Internet addiction, although there is, is rather weak. More research is needed to confirm it conclusively. Meanwhile, another group of scientists - from the University of Pennsylvania under the leadership of Melissa Hunt - published an article last November showing that reducing the time on social networks to 30 minutes a day relieves feelings of loneliness and reduces symptoms of depression. It also helps reduce anxiety.
True, the sample was small - only 143 people. For example, one group of participants limited their time on social networks for three weeks, while the other used them as usual. The state of health improved in the first group. The study involved, however, not adolescents, but students, but there is reason to believe that similar statistics can be observed in the former. It is not without reason that pediatricians do not recommend children aged 11 to 13 to use a gadget or computer for more than two hours a day.