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Keeping Kids Balanced in the Age of Electronics

Posted on Aug 17, 2011

The media has been around for decades, but the plethora of technology options today dwarfs what was available even 20 years ago. Between television, MP3 players, video games, computers, cell phones and portable electronic devices, kids’ lives could easily be consumed by electronic devices.

According to a study published by the Kaiser Foundation, kids ages 8 to 18 years old average eight hours of media time every day. We talked to Dr. James Ferrara, a pediatrician at member of the Mills-Peninsula Division of PAMF, about some of the benefits and pitfalls of this exposure.

Benefits

The entertainment options are multitudinous and varied, and as any parent will tell you, an iPad or laptop is a lifesaver when taking small children on long plane rides. Dr. Ferrara sees other upsides to this media exposure. Electronic devices are also useful for:

  • Education: iPads have proven invaluable for kids with learning disabilities
  • Communication: Skype, e-mail and texting keep college-age kids and their parents connected
  • Computer literacy: kids embrace new programs or electronic devices 

“For children, technology is like a second language. They learn how to use it early and are not intimidated by it,” says Dr. Ferrara.     

Concerns

Lack of activity is one of the biggest drawbacks. If your children are watching TV, listening to their MP3 players, or on the computer, they are probably not doing anything physically active.

“For many kids, screen time takes the place of physical play,” Dr. Ferrara says. “It can also inhibit smaller children’s ability to participate in imaginative and interactive play.” 

While the Internet offers easy access to educational material, if also exposes kids to:

  • Pornography
  • Online predators posing as kids
  • Digital bullying

For teens, driving while distracted by phone calls and texting is very dangerous. Encourage your teens to put their phones away while they’re driving. 

Solutions

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to two hours or less every day. How do you do this?

  • Schedule media time
  • Enforce the screen-time limit
  • Keep all media out of your children’s bedrooms

Dr. Ferrara also recommends that parents support their kids’ understanding of technology. Also, make sure you know what your kids are doing online.

“Children need supervision of their online experience, because often they lack the judgment to filter out inappropriate or erroneous material,” said Dr. Ferrara.   

Dr. James Ferrara, a pediatrician and member of the Mills-Division of PAMF, contributed to this blog post.