I see that my 7-year old son is spending more and more time in front of the computer and one day when I asked him to clean his room 5 times and 5 times he replied: “let me just finish this” (he was finishing it for over an hour), I had enough. I searched the internet for more advice on what other parents are dealing with and if they have the same problem as I do and I don’t have to say that I was right. Many parents are dealing with the same problem, and I was able to find many solutions to that problem, but what concerns me more is the impact of the excessive use of a computer on a child. Here’s what I discovered:
Kids are increasingly spending more of their time in front of the television, computers, game consoles and other “interesting” electronic pastimes. Various risks, such as exposure to violence and sexually explicit content are usually associated with them. On the other hand, the technology allows the kids to watch educational shows, look at the concert of their favorite band, and learn a new language. But, how exactly all this impacts on our children is what concerns all mothers?
Does the violent content create a violent generation? How worthy are the friends with whom your teen met on Facebook or with whom he daily joins forces to kill the boss in the World of Warcraft game? Do kids become “sexual” earlier because of all that explicit pictures, words and videos in the media? How we as parents should react and respond to new technologies? How to protect them from all this without banning them in what they enjoy?
Numerous studies have confirmed that many of today's young bullies first played violent games, and only then transferred the experience into the real world. However, this does not prove that virtual violence causes real violence. In fact, there have always been and there always will be bullies. They were formerly taught by local thugs, today they learn from movies and games. But every expert will tell you that all of today's children, no matter how much their caring parents + protected or controlled them, are often in a position to see the violence in schools, movies, games. Despite all this, only a small number of children are turning into bullies. (source)
Therefore, it is probable that the same content does not have the same effect on each child, so violence in the media and games will encourage violence more often in neglected or otherwise frustrated child. Thus, if there were no violent games and movies, frustrated kids would have found a way to learn in their environment how to become a bully. However, today the sources of learning this disorderly 'craft' are more accessible and imaginative, but it is very likely that a caring parent who gives a child a lot of attention and love, and at the same time can be an authority and set boundaries, will not raise a bully, even with all the games and media world.
Complete bans are certainly not good because as we all know forbidden fruit is the sweetest. Of course, very young children, who do not distinguish reality from the virtual, should not be subjected to any violence. As the child grows, fairy tales, games, television and other sources will offer them insights about the good and the bad sides of the world. The most important is to adjust the content to the child's age and sensibilities, be careful that the media and the computer does not occupy an excessive number of hours of a child during the day, and that these will not be the only types of games, learning and fun. Even if they are watching the most benign contents, the child who is left to television and the Internet will exhibit similar symptoms of neglect and frustration as the child who is being subjected to violence.
It is interesting that the media, internet and computers are linked to the dangers that have not yet been overrepresented (violence, sex and crime), while those that are the most common and most obvious dangers are neglected. Children spend several hours a day in school, then they sit down at the computer, watch TV, do their homework and spend less and less time outdoors, which harms their health: they have distorted spines, they move less and as a result there is more childhood obesity. Playing with their peers develops skills, independence, ability to work in an environment and new situations, all this without even mentioning socialization: the child is taught to argue and reconcile, to solve problems, adapt to the group, to accept diversity. When we were growing up we had more time for all of the above and without a doubt that was our advantage when compared to this generation of kids.
But whether a child should use a computer at an early age?
Experts say that children younger than 3 years don’t have any benefits from computer use and that interaction with their parents, other children and toys is quite sufficient. Younger children acquire their skills and knowledge using their body and their senses. These are basic skills such as walking, balance development and agility of the body, talking and making real and vibrant friendships... everything that a computer can’t provide. If the child doesn’t acquire it now, it will be more difficult to master them in the future.
But do not be old-fashioned and one-sided: admit that you would not be outside playing cowboys and Indians so often if you had a minimum of 60 channels on TV, Internet and super-realistic games. Instead of thinking about the dangers and minuses, see the TV program; you will be amazed how useful and educational some TV programs are. If you live in a small town, be sure to surf the net: you will realize that your child can still be in the room and learn to play almost every instrument, see a concert of its favorite band on the other side of the planet. Try to play at least one computer game to feel what is like, and if you like it, occasionally organize a family tournament.
As much as the times have changed, solutions to parental problems are generally similar: love, dedication of time and listening to the child, setting boundaries and moderation are the best protection against all dangers.
Here are some tips I found online (which I found useful) to provide a healthy and safe environment for your child in front of the computer:
1. Supervise a small child while they are on the computer. When the child is older, spend less time telling them what to do, but always be close by to offer a helping hand.
2. Allow your child only games that you have previously checked. Find out which game is intended for what age. Most games are marked with the ESRB(Entertainment Software Rating Board, the U.S. organization that classifies games) which clearly states which game is meant for what age and what content can be expected.
3. If you allow your child to play an online game with other players, especially note the factor of addiction and how long the child is playing daily. Set a time limit for playing games and general computer use. The priority should be playing and going to the park, and in the case of older children homework, learning and playing.
4. Violent games are totally inappropriate for children. They gradually identify themselves with the characters from the games and the child increases tolerance to violence. A lot of the cool and appropriate games for preschoolers can be found at the following link: http://moms.popsugar.com/Nonviolent-Video-Games-Kids-31018804
5. Seriously warn your children about the possible dangers that can occur if they are talking with other children on the Internet and teach them how to behave and interact with strangers.
6. If you've noticed that the child withdraws into itself, avoiding you, changing its behavior, it becomes a mysterious, talk to him. Have patience and time, tell him why you are concerned and encourage him to confide in you.
7. Provide your child with a safe and ergonomic environment. The place where the computer is placed should be peaceful and make sure to choose the right desk and chair for your child in order to avoid physical damage to the spine and neck (I found this article which I think would be useful for everyone to read: http://bambinohome.com.au/buying-the-right-kids-desk/)
I’m off to take my son to the library (he loves dinosaurs and they have some really good books about dinosaurs). Although I’m tired (I work full time), I take every opportunity to take him out of the house and away from the computer. I think it’s a good start and I would love to hear your thoughts on this and how you are dealing with this ‘situation’.