Childhood Development, Technology, Video Games

Does your child pick candy over veggies?! Beware giving them digital devices too early.

Cris Rowan, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, published an article titled:
“Ten reasons why handheld devices should be banned for children under the age of 12”

She received a lot of push-back. Here is my response:

The problem lies in children who cannot make wise decisions due to the fact that their frontal lobes are not fully developed until age 25. Kids generally pick instant gratification over delayed gratification, e.g. eat entire bag of candy now rather than one piece over a week.

Technology offers downsides, as clearly outlined in Cris’ article. These downsides are associated with the instant gratification technology offers that I refer to as digital candy. On the other hand, there are clear educational benefits to technology and gaming, particularly educational games that I refer to as digital broccoli.

The problems lie in kids who indulge excessively in digital candy leading to dysfunctional behaviors as outlined in the article. These dysfunctional behaviors far outweigh any benefits gained from digital broccoli aspects of the technology.

When educators give handheld devices to kids, they dream of all the digital broccoli available. When the child receives the digital device, most inevitably the child dreams of all the digital candy available.

The task lies in setting healthy boundaries and constantly supervising children who receive these digital devices. However, beware, even supervised iPads were hacked by LA Unified Schools students within two weeks of receiving these devices. Instead of feasting on digital broccoli, these students stuffed their brains with digital candy like video games with little educational benefits and porn, motivating school officials to recall thousands of iPads.

The lesson is if your child is one who can moderate their desires for instant gratification and makes amazing adult-like choices, then handhelds will likely be beneficial. However, if your child is one who loves to pick candy over veggies, you’ll likely face serious behavioral issues and may need help from professionals like Cris Rowan.

Andrew Doan MD PhD