Have you ever asked yourself what is the first movement children learn today right after they start walking? No, it is not running, or kicking the ball. Some even learn it before learning how to walk. It is finger swiping of the screen. Kids today basically learn how to use technology before they learn how to perceive and use space around them.
We live in a technological era and technology is intertwined with our everyday lives. We use it for house assistance, for errands but also for entertainment. Thus, kids’ brains develop in different ways than it did before technology surrounded us. The term “digital dementia” was coined by a German psychiatrist, psychologist and neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer, and it is used to define consequences we are facing in our cognitive abilities due to technology overuse. Technology usage provokes only certain brain functions, while other deteriorate or even remain underdeveloped, since kids do not learn how to use them early on. For example, adults use smartphones as their memory storage, and long-term memory of facts weakens. Imagine what happens to kids who did not even learn all the facts and life hacks, but immediately know they can “store” them in their phones, tablets or PCs? Brain pathways deteriorate and kids lack basic cognitive skills, and consequentially, social and emotional skills as well.
What does digital dementia mean for the development functional, motoric, cognitive and social skills in kids? Kids’ brain develops mainly through virtual reality, meaning it has a two-dimensional perspective of space. Also, some of the signs of digital dementia in kids that can be noticed are slouched posture, delays in development, forgetfulness, social seclusion, lack of movement, anxiety and depression, anger, balance disorders and uncoordinated movement patterns. If we keep in mind that kids IQ is developed not only by learning basic life facts, but also by the development of their motoric skills, it becomes apparent that technology overuse affects proper and full development of kids.
Of course, the solution is not to cut all the technology from kids’ lives, but rather to teach them how to use it moderately and under strict rules. Parents are urged to educate their kids by example, meaning their technology use has to be moderated as well. Kids’ brain develops 90% by the age of 5 and parents and other included in kids’ life by that age only have so much time to develop it properly. Furthermore, development has to continue in kindergartens and schools. What are the good ways to keep kids entertained away from the screen? Spend time with them outside from an early age, teach them love for the outdoor activities, use different resources to fill your kid’s day with physical activity that provokes their brain function. For example, take every weekend to teach your kid some new outdoor game he/she can then teach his/her classmates. By learning something new, kids now only develop their motor skill needed to perform those tasks and games, but also, with parents’ encouragement, develop self-confidence and social and communication skills in transferring their new knowledges to their classmates. Sport and physical activity is most certainly a cheapest antidote to digital dementia and a very effective way of full body and mind development. Use your free time to show your kids fun games, outdoor activities, teach them about the importance of good nutrition and clean environment, and you will soon notice positive changes in their attitude, skills and motivation.
Tea Gutović, Sociology PhD Candidate and Kinesiology Bachelor