Posts made in March, 2014

All On-Call in the Family: Use of Electronics Hooks Teens, Parents, Even Babies! The Result: More Anxiety for Everyone

Posted by on Mar 10, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on All On-Call in the Family: Use of Electronics Hooks Teens, Parents, Even Babies! The Result: More Anxiety for Everyone

All On-Call in the Family: Use of Electronics Hooks Teens, Parents, Even Babies! The Result: More Anxiety for Everyone

Much has been reported about the pervasive use of electronics by teenagers and the need for parents to have a screening policy against the overuse of screens.  Well, it turns out that parents are often part of the problem, not the solution, as many moms and dads have become overly attached to their smartphones, iPads, laptops, and social media.  In fact, today’s preoccupation with screens extends throughout the family, with Generation X and Y parents, boomer grandparents, and even babies involved:  Fisher Price is marketing a baby bouncy seat with an iPad holder, and now there is a potty seat that comes with an iPad holder. What is the effect of this “all in the family” technology?  These new techie toys are coming to market so quickly, and our society has an insatiable appetite for them.  Caught in the vortex, research hasn’t had a chance to catch up, and we won’t have definitive data about the effects of this lifestyle revolution for years to come. We do, however, now know some things that are troubling.  Let’s start with babies. Developmentally, babies from the time they are born, seek contact with human faces. They learn language through human interaction. The value of connecting with others comes from the early, loving connection to significant others. Social, non-verbal language development depends on the experience of relating with others. Further, research suggests that TV watching before the age of 2 leads to a higher incidence of Attention Deficit Disorder. As far as the impact of babies playing with iPads, my instinct says it can’t be good. Face-to-Face As a child psychologist, my biggest concern about the explosion of screen use among all of us, including babies, is that it interferes with sustained face –to-face, intimate contact with family members.  Again, how this will affect social and emotional development is an unknown, but it’s clear that screens divert our focus from humans into gadgets, in a way that is highly individualized and not social.  And it’s  not only the impact of screens on our children and babies that is problematic; it is also the impact of parents who may be physically with their kids but actually not connected to them because today’s moms and dads are often distracted by screens as well. While we typically feel compelled to respond to the constant barrage of emails, texts, calls, etc., we are not connecting in a meaningful way.  And ironically, if we try to extricate ourselves from our gadgets, we often feel anxious that we are missing something important. When I became an intern years ago, I was given a beeper to be used when I was “on call,” and I remember how anxiety-producing it was when it would go off. When wearing it, I was always aware that I was working on some level, and I wasn’t free to relax when playing with my kids, making dinner, or even taking a rest. In the last few years, like many doctors, I have given back my beeper and use my cell phone instead, since they both serve the same function.  However, now, everyone has a cell phone, and we are often expected to be on call, on-demand, 24/7. How many of us, especially parents, would not feel anxious if we left home without our phone? How...

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