Don’t allow children to be raised by the internet

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Teagan Kimbro

Jake Freeman, Columnist

The internet and devices like iPhones and iPads are ruining childhood. It used to be a rare sight to see a 5-year-old with an iPhone in their hands, gawking at a YouTube video. Now you could see this exact thing multiple times a day at the grocery store or just walking down the street. Kids are exposed to more media than ever and this has negative effects on their social and cognitive development. 

It is imperative parents take strict control over how much time their kids spend on computers and other electronic devices. The home computer and widespread internet access is still relatively new. There is not much credible research on the effects that excessive screen time has on the developing brain since the generation of people who have grown up with the internet are still fairly young.

Children using electronics from a young age is nothing new. Kids born in 1999 had a GameBoy Color as a kid. This new wave of technology is completely different. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 13 and didn’t have a smartphone until I was a freshman in high school.

Teagan Kimbro

Now, it is normal to see kids not even old enough to be in kindergarten playing mind numbing clicker games on an iPad or watching strange YouTube videos seemingly about nothing. Even just 15 years ago kids were still playing outside all day on weekends. Now it’s rare to see kids running around the neighborhood. 

There are health risks associated with excessive internet and TV exposure among children. A study conducted by Fali Huang and Myoung Jae-Lee which was published in the Journal of Applied Econometrics concluded that any time spent watching TV between the ages of six and nine had a negative effect on math and reading abilities. 

The effect is apparently diminished with age which would indicate that there is a negative effect on cognitive development which is caused by time spent looking at a screen. The study concluded that just two hours of screen time is enough to have visible effects on a child’s cognitive performance.

 This study was conducted in 2010 when most children were not spending hours on end looking at an iPad so it would be logical to predict that the effects are much greater now.

A poll conducted in Britain surveyed 2,000 British parents of children aged six to sixteen and found that children, on average, spend only seven hours a week outside. According to the same survey, they spend roughly 14 hours a week playing video games. 

This is contributing to many of the public health concerns facing the world. More children are obese than ever before. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 19% of children aged two to nineteen are obese. 

Obviously, childhood internet use is not the only factor of increasing childhood obesity but the increase in children spending too much time online is definitely a contributing factor. Other things like increased access to low quality food and a general lack of physical and health education in the public school system are also to blame.

Parents need to do a better job of policing the things their children do online. Any person can access images and videos of quite literally anything. Many people have surely stumbled upon disturbing images and videos when we were much too young to see such things.

This is not to say that children should not be allowed to be using the internet or watching TV. However, parents need to monitor what their children are doing online and stop allowing the internet to raise their children. 

There are many resources available online which are beneficial to children’s learning and those sites should be promoted and celebrated. Children are complex and require lots of attention and physical activity to develop properly.