10 Truths About Kids and Technology, According to Main Line Area Experts

Experts around the Philly suburbs sound off on the ways technology can impact the health and overall development of children and teens.

At this point, most parents know something about the adverse effects of too much screen time. “Increasingly, we’re seeing families with concerns related to their children’s social-emotional development and emotional regulation skills,” says Erin Adamitis of the Pediatric Psychology Center of Chester County in Exton. “They’re frequently pointing to screen-related activities as a possible trigger.”

Adamitis joins other local experts in offering these 10 truths about technology and our kids.

1. Excessive screen time limits the physical activity crucial for building strong muscles and bones and maintaining a healthy body weight.

“Allow your kids to spend the afternoon on the phone, then take them to their favorite park or play a game or sport with them and compare the two,” says Devon-based psychotherapist Matthew Gelber. “In the first example, you’ll get a child who’s disconnected, influenced by others and focused on vanity and the quantity of items. In the second, you’ll get a child who’s happy, energized and feeling healthy both physically and mentally.”

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2. Screens emit blue light, which suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

So it should come as no surprise that excessive blue-light exposure correlates with a poor night’s rest. For kids, that can lead to irritability, difficulty concentrating and compromised immune function. Adamitis also warns of the “quick and easy dopamine hits” that come through electronic activities. “Other activities require more sustained effort to reach the same level,” she says.

3. Kids need to learn how to be bored.

“By being bored, they’re able to turn to their imaginations—which should be vivid and robust—and create their own entertainment,” says Penn Valley’s Nicolette Brycki, a former teacher and the mother of two young daughters, who’s now a guest host on QVC. “I do see the benefit in the educational component of screen time. But, like anything, it’s good in moderation.”

4. When kids are old enough to be on social media, it’s crucial to have a conversation about the dangers of the online world.

“If we regularly see grown adults getting themselves into trouble with behavior on electronics, how could we possibly expect our children with developing brains to manage any better?” poses Adamitis.

5. Apps like Instagram and TikTok have been linked to anxiety and depression in young people.

“I tell my own 14-year-old twins that what you see on social media and online isn’t reality,” says Gelber. “There’s a belief in this age group that what they see online and what they see on social media is what they need to live up to. Social media makes everything look wonderful and perfect, and that’s not how young people should view the world.”

6. If you’ve seen a dip in your child’s academic performance, technology may play a role.

Constant screen exposure can contribute to shorter attention spans, difficulty concentrating and lack of focus for long periods of time.

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7. Cognitive development and critical thinking skills can also suffer.

“I try to explain to parents how important it is to teach our children how to balance highly rewarding activities with mildly rewarding activities, how to set and follow their own planned limits, and how to come up with other activities to fill their time when screens are off the table,” Adamitis says.

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8. For busy parents, screens are an all-too-easy option.

“It’s work to encourage nondigital play when we live in a digital world,” says Brycki, who tries to tap into her daughters’ interests with toys and extracurricular activities. “I also bring them with me when I run my errands. Kids learn a lot by watching and hanging out with their parents.”

9. Vigilance is key.

Gelber advises parents to be “extremely vigilant” when it comes to screen time. “It’s playing a role in increased anxiety and depression in children and teenagers,” he says. “Children make the screen their reality, rather than making day-to-day life their reality.”

10. There are many ways to reduce screen time in the home.

Try limiting technology use to a certain time slot and leave plenty of time for other activities. Designate screen-free zones in bedrooms and dining areas. Most importantly, make sure you’re promoting healthy screen habits by limiting your own technology time and engaging in family activities. “My daughters are still rather young, but the benefits of limiting screen time and encouraging well-rounded interaction and engagement with others should pay off in the long run,” Brycki says.

Related: Carlyne Graham and the Postpartum Stress Center Help Women in Need

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