Monday, April 4, 2016

STOP Digitally Sedating Your Kids!

When young children need to wait at a restaurant, doctor's appointment, a siblings basketball game, etc. do you toss a tablet or smartphone in front of them?  This type of digitally sedation may be harming your child's ability to develop patience and self regulation.  Children need to gradually learn how to sustain attention, control their behavior and emotions and to simply wait.  When you offer excessive stimulation to children the second they start to wiggle you create a vicious cycle of zoning out on technology instead of interacting with the real world.

I am extremely concerned about overall child development when I see children as young as 5 with their own iphones.  It saddens me to see healthy 8 year old boys sitting underneath a tree at a playground huddled around a smartphone.  The teenage years should be spent hanging out and socializing not taking hundreds of selfies.   

I hear many parents say "what's the big deal?" technology is a part of our everyday world.  Children have to be exposed to it and learn how to use it at an early age.  I couldn't agree more!  Children do need to learn how to use technology in order to function in the education system and the work force. Watching Netflix is not learning technology. Zoning out on cause and effect apps is not learning technology.  Trolling through Instagram is not learning technology.  

You know what the solution is to fix the digital sedation. STOP bringing babies and young children to situations where you need to keep them waiting for long periods of time. Going out to dinner with a mobile baby or even worse a toddler can be torture.  They are hungry and want the food right away. They don't want to sit in a high chair while they wait and listen to you talk.  So here is a tip - eat at home as often as you can until they get older.  Don't eat at restaurants where you have to order drinks, then appetizers and then the main meal.  It is an unrealistic expectation to think that a toddler will sit for that long without some fall out.  That being said, on occasion you do need to eat out or bring a toddler to an event where they need to sit still (ie church, sporting events, assemblies, etc).  Instead of digitally sedating your child, try bringing a small bag of items to entertain a baby.  Bring books, a few crayons, a small notebook and a special snack.  Maybe toss in some boredom buster activities for older children if you will be waiting a long time. You may not get 30 minutes of sitting still but you should get a few minutes.  This teaches the child to sustain their attention, sit quietly when necessary, control their bodies while waiting and self regulation skills in general.  The CHILD is learning to control their body and emotions not external solutions like passive technology.   

When you go to certain places especially outdoors, ban technology.  Enjoy nature, play at the playground or ride a bicycle.  At dinner time, establish a no technology rule for all family members to help children learn to wait, practice table manners and socialize in person not just via social media.  One of my biggest pet peeves is people who use social media while sitting around the dinner table!  

Making all of these suggestions happen is hard work! Parenting would be so much easier if we allowed unlimited use of technology and digital sedation - certainly a lot quieter!


  1. A friend of mine posted this article on FB. I agree with this article when referring to typically developing children, however when special needs are there this is not always possible. I kept electronics away from my first 2 boys no problem, they could entertain themselves quietly. The third boy with Down syndrome and severe autism was a different story. We do Natural Play Therapy in the home to practice the developmental stages of play, learn and to bond but if we are out and about and have to eat out it is pretty much impossible without electronics for us to do so. We try to limit them as much as possible and use them only when necessary. We can't even eat at the table all together in our own home because my youngest is so stressed about food. I too dislike seeing people out and about and everyone is on their phones, especially when they are able to converse and entertain themselves. I think we are missing out on a lot these days on 'real' relationships.

  2. Thank you very much for your personal perspective. I agree with you 100%. There are certain exceptions but in the post I am referring to children/parents who overuse technology. The example you gave I would support completely. I happen to be a pediatric physical therapist so I understand that a tablet/smartphone comes in handy to keep peace, take a break and to make it through a meal and when used properly to educate. In addition, it may be essential for some children to communicate. My concern, as you stated at the end of your comment, is the overuse and the lack of "real" relationships and decreased self regulation skills. PS heading over to your blog to read more about your expereinces with Natural Play Therapy!