Technology has become part of the daily lives of people living in the modern area. They use technology at school, work, and for leisure. Technology has become such a part of life that many people may not consider the impact that technology has on their health; they may only think of it in terms of convenience and productivity. But the reality is that technology does have an impact on people’s health.
This reality becomes more concerning when considered in light of how technology may affect children, who are still developing. Technology can affect a child’s development through its use in education and learning; overuse or ‘dependence’ on technology can contribute to a child developing obesity, therefore affecting their physical health; and overuse or misuse of technology can affect a child’s social skills, which can affect their psychological health.
Technology is frequently used in the classroom and beyond with regard to teaching and learning. All manner of educational games can be accessed via computers and mobile devices. Teachers and other educators frequently use computers and other technology in the classroom. In fact, today’s technology has so much to offer a child (and educators!) when it comes to learning tools that can help a child’s intellectual and educational growth. Teachers can use computer and Internet-based games to teach children concepts and content area material. There is even research that playing video games can “actually promote problem-solving skills” (Jacobson, Bailin, Milanaik, & Adesman, 2016, p. 189). In the past twenty years, technology has become one of the most common ways of teaching a child from ages six months and beyond. One has only to visit the toy aisles of stores like Target and Walmart to see the wide range of educational technology available and the wide range of ages that technology is intended for. Furthermore, educational software “can support” teaching and learning activities, especially those that involve “active learning processes” and strategies (Price & Rogers, 2004, p. 139). Students who have disabilities can also benefit from technology. Since the way a child learns determines where they will be placed in school – mainstream or in special classes – technology to accommodate their needs and challenges is necessary. These technologies are usually called assistive technologies (AT) and can help children with a range of disabilities participate in the classroom which enhances their learning experience (Parmelee, 2014). Even children who may not have disabilities but are just having a little trouble with a certain subject can benefit from learning technology. According to Parmelee (2014), “Digital technology is now able to support, assist, and help students who struggle with certain subjects and for those who have learning disabilities” (p. 2). In this case, technology can provide a lot of benefits to a child’s intellectual and educational growth.
But does the same apply to their physical growth? Unfortunately, things seem less positive with regard to technology and children’s physical health. It seems that many children of today spend less time outside than children did a decade ago. Children seem to prefer playing video games or games on mobile devices to physical activity. This preference for technology leads to a decrease in physical activity, and when coupled with the tendency of today’s children to have high calorie intakes especially as a result of soda (Calamaro, Yang, Ratcliffe, & Chasens, 2012), the potential for the child to become obese increases significantly. The children become so focused on technology – which includes television – that they ignore physically healthy activities like bike riding and sports like football and tennis. But the problem isn’t so much the technology itself – it’s that the technology encourages sedentary behaviors. Getting focused on texting, watching television, and playing on the Internet can lead to problems. One such problem is Internet addiction (IA). It can lead to “poor eating habits, including skipping meals, snacking, and loss of appetite” (Jacobson et al., 2016, p. 184). These can contribute to obesity as well, but they also lead to poor caloric intake which leads to decreased energy which makes them less likely to engage in games like tag or flag football. To counter this, experts recommend no more than two hours of sedentary technology use per day while also suggesting that the children get at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. Parents should pay close attention to their children’s technology use and encourage physical activity while keeping an eye out for signs of negative effects (Jacobson et al., 2016).
Technology can be both beneficial and detrimental to children’s social health. Since the increasing popularity of social media, more and more young people seem drawn to such sites. They stop interacting with their peers in ‘real life,’ preferring the virtual world. This can lead to feelings of isolation and depression (Jacobson et al., 2016). When younger children start using the Internet at a young age and most of their socialization occurs in the virtual realm, they don’t develop socially. Their social skills suffer. They may find themselves becoming cyberbullies or victims of cyberbullying (Jacobson et al., 2016). On the other hand though, technology like social media can help them find peers with similar interests. They can find encouragement and make friends from all over the world which exposes them to new cultures. However, unless the child is using video-based technology (like Skype), they miss out on the usual physical cues of socialization such as body language or facial expressions which can lead to miscommunication. So the effects of technology on social skills are mixed: some good, some bad.
Technology is an inevitable part of daily life in modern society. It can be both beneficial and detrimental. In terms of the growth and development of children, technology can have effects on their intellectual and educational growth, physical growth, and socialization. Technology can help them learn but hurt their physical health; it can help and hurt them socially. Parents and educators should be aware of these challenges and monitor children carefully.
- Calamaro, C. J., Yang, K., Ratcliffe, S., & Chasens, E. R. (2012). Wired at a young age: The effect of caffeine and technology on sleep duration and body mass index in school-aged children. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 26276-282. doi:10.1016/j.pedhc.2010.12.002
- Jacobson, C., Bailin, A., Milanaik, R., & Adesman, A. (2016). Adolescent health implications of new age technology. The Pediatric Clinics of North America, 63(Our Shrinking Globe: Implications for Child Safety), 183-194. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2015.09.001
- Parmelee, C. (2014). Assistive technology for reading and writing, and coping with anxiety. Mount Royal Undergraduate Education Review, 1(2).
- Price, S., & Rogers, Y. (2004). Let’s get physical: The learning benefits of interacting in digitally augmented physical spaces. Computers & Education, 43(1), 137-151.