specifically handheld devices, appears to be everywhere in today’s
society. However, when it comes to this type of equipment and
children, how young is too young? Are the benefits of smartphones,
tablets and other devices outweighed by the potential problems they
could be creating for those age 12 and younger?
clinical psychologist Dr. Munther Barakat of Aurora Behavioral Health
Services, it’s estimated that 75 percent of kids now have access to
some form of a handheld device, and that number is expected to grow
with each passing year.
always a battle between parents and kids as to how much usage they
should have," says Barakat. "Parents complain about their
kids being on it for a significant period of time."
are developing curricula and plans for how teachers and kids will use
this technology in the classroom, many wonder what role parents should
play, especially at home, when it comes to monitoring usage.
to parents that rules be firmly established when the technology is
first introduced. He believes younger children should spend less time
on devices simply because many aren’t at the development level yet
to manage it.
He runs the
child/adolescent treatment program at the Aurora Psychiatric Hospital
in Wauwatosa and sees an array of issues children deal with from
overexposure to handheld devices, particularly when it comes to
explicit video games or using devices in inappropriate ways.
had kids in our program who were 11, 12 and 13 years old who have
gotten into trouble because of the type of communication they’ve had
with peers; they’re texting and sending pictures. Sometimes kids are
even communicating with strangers, and parents are completely unaware
of it," says Barakat.
He also sees
some older adolescents who have interpersonal and anxiety issues
because of this type of technology. When it comes to younger kids,
Barakat sees them coping with tantrums, adjustment to restrictions,
ADHD, sleep deprivation and increased stress. "It’s harder for
them to de-escalate, harder for them to go to sleep at night because
they’re playing games, or engaged in some sort of technology, when
they’re supposed to be going to bed," says Barakat.
responsibly, today’s technology has extraordinary benefits for
children of all ages. According to Barakat, parents can access
different applications that can help children with cognitive
disabilities communicate, and those who have ADHD become more
organized. He also sees a tremendous upside when it comes to
schoolwork. "We teach kids to utilize technologies to study. They
can use flash cards and there’s applications out there for specific
classes, so that can help them academically," he says.
technology are inevitable, but how kids are taught to use this rapidly
changing technology may be the key to their success in life, as well
as their mental welfare.
In 2013, kids
under the age of 8 spent, on average, 15 minutes per day on a
smartphone or tablet (Common Sense Media)
90 percent of
U.S. children aged 6-12 play video games, compared to 88 percent for
teens and 62 percent for adults.