It Was a Dark and Stormy Digital Babysitter Night
Two rainy nights ago, I was treated to an interesting “incident” at a fancy restaurant in town. Even on a rainy Friday night diners entered the restaurant in droves. Inside the restaurant, I was seated adjacent to a family of four and a digital babysitter. Not one, but two digital babysitters.
A bespectacled man in his mid-thirties sat next to a boy of 10. Seated opposite the boy was her sister. Next to her, sat their mother, stoically dissecting a dead animal on her plate.
For a packed restaurant on a rainy Friday night, this table is extremely quiet. Man in glasses had no expression on his face as he stared at the screen of his mobile phone. The kids had their eyes trained on their
digital babysitter Ipads. Both Ipads were tuned to the same cartoon clip on a Youtube channel.
The kids’ eyes gazed intensely at the screens while mechanically shoved food into their mouths. This went on for the entire evening. The only sounds coming from this table was the abrupt laughter of the boy. Not unlike a mental patient on a psychotic break, the boy became hysterical each time the character on screen jab at his nemesis with a sharp object.
The Rise of the Digital Babysitter.
I observed that 80% of the children in the room has a tablet. Meanwhile, the grown-ups go about their food and social chatter. This may seem trivial to most onlookers but for social scientists, this is a field day.
According to a 2011 survey by marketing research firm Nielsen, 55% of parents use tablets to keep children quiet while they are driving. 41% of parents admit that they let their kids play with tablet PCs at restaurants.
A child’s continual exposure to the digital screen may result in health, mobility and psychological issues. Prolonged screen exposure may lead to poor social skills, depression and the inability to empathize later in life.
Psychologist Dr. Aric Sigman states that children in the UK will have accumulated an entire year’s worth of screen time by age 7.
He suggests that prolonged screen time will affect the production of dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for reward-driven learning. This can lead to reductions in attention span and the ability to pay attention.
The solution: REDUCE SCREEN TIME.
Professor Lynne Murray, a developmental psychopathology expert, advocates zero screen time for children under the age of three. Although digital contents may be attention grabbing they are not appropriate for a child’s cognitive processes.
Is there a Question in Our
Digital Babysitter Future?
English film critic and television presenter, Claudia Winkleman (ironically, she does not own a TV) criticized parents who spend their time on the internet or watching TV instead of talking with their children.
She warned that this obsession with technology is detrimental to their children:
“The children of the future will be in therapy going, ‘I never talked to my mum and dad as they were always online’ ”.
If this digital nanny trend continues, my work as a therapist will soon involve a new generation of clients with “digital gadget-related” issues. The UK Daily Mail had already cited Nomophobia as the biggest phobia in the world right now. Check out what this irrational fear is all about on The Phobia List.
In a time where digital device is a norm and privacy a thing of the past, do ponder upon the impacts of the digital media on the next generation. Just imagine a toddler navigating an Ipad deftly with her fingers while her parents enjoys dinner with a sigh of relief.
Thank God for technology. Or not?