Is Technology Stressing our Kids?

Note to Readers: I don’t know if technology is stressing our kids, but I do know that technology has added a new paradigm to the many facets of parenting. I do know that taking my teen’s screens away would destroy her academically and socially.  I do know that keeping up with the various forms of interaction, communication, and learning has made me feel like I have one more full time parenting job. It is always challenging to be the transitional generation.

We do not have a child/parenting story or experience to draw from. We are all beginners…doing the best we can with what we have experienced. So, is technology stressing our kids? Thanks to Melissa Maypole for sharing her thoughts.

Unplug the Kids

Does Technology Alone Cause Stress

Parenting was hard enough before the Internet and Smartphones, but today, moms and dads have to worry about the effects all of this new technology is having on their kids. We worry about their safety online, how much screen time is too much, and whether or not video games are rotting their brains. We’re the ones who should be stressed out, right?
Unfortunately, new studies have shown that today’s climate of digital overload is not just stressing out parents; it’s making the kids anxious too. In fact, in a recent UK study, more kids reported feeling overwhelmed than adults!

Of course, it’s one thing to observe that today’s digital kids are stressed. It’s quite another to argue that technology is the primary contributor to the problem.  Admittedly, there are lots of other reasons kids might feel stressed out, such as an overload of extracurriculars or the pressure of high stakes testing in schools. Why are we so quick to point the finger at the gadgets? And more importantly, are our suspicions correct?

The Case Against Violent Video Games

There are conflicting reports on whether technology itself is to blame for the increase in kids’ stress levels, but most experts agree that violent video games cause anxiety and, perhaps even more concerning, aggressive thoughts and behaviors. Douglas Gentile, a professor at Iowa State University says kids release the same stress hormones (namely cortisol and testosterone) while playing violent games as they would in a real-life battle.

Aggravating Factors

You would be hard-pressed to find an expert who would tell you that technology alone is to blame for kids’ heightened stress levels, however. There are clearly other factors to consider and many of them have to do with what kids are missing out on rather than what they’re being influenced by. Take sleep, for example. A recent Swedish study confirmed what many suspected by linking heavy computer and cell phone use to sleep disorders. Yep, you guessed it—that bluish glow emitted from computer and cell phone screens trips up our normal sleep cycles and even messes with hormones like melatonin that help us get our rest at night.

Tips for Parents

Short of a complete digital detox, what can parents do to keep their kids stress-free? Here are a few tips for helping your child strike a healthy tech-life balance to ward off stress:

  • Limit all screen time (TV included) to 2 hours a day or an amount you are comfortable with.
  • Be sure your child is getting plenty of rest. Collect devices and turn off monitors at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Keep nutrition in check. Make sure kids are eating balanced meals and healthy snacks at the table, not in front of the monitor.
  • Encourage kids to play outdoors, weather permitting.
  • Opt for interactive video games that gets kids moving such as those created for Xbox Kinect.
  • Use a resource such as Common Sense Media to gauge whether video game titles are age and content appropriate.
  • Facilitate “hang outs” for older kids so they rely less on social networks to keep in touch. (As top teen researcher Danah Boyd likes to say, it’s not social media that kids are addicted to; its each other!)

Melissa Maypole is Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Qustodio, a parental control software that helps parents monitor children’s activities from connected devices. You can find her on the front lines of the uphill battle to successfully parent four kids in a high-tech world. Readers can contact Melissa @MelissaMaypole.

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