By Lee Ting-fung（李亭芳）, Hsiao Chih-lin（蕭芷琳）
New electronic products are constantly swarming into the market as technology has been indispensable and more deep-seated in our life, making it convenient for us to chat with each other, work and play. Now people are used to feeling safe while holding smartphones. We also appease children with smartphones, indirectly producing certain effects on their mental development.
As most parents are busy with business, they give children smartphones when there are no other options. A majority of people regard connecting with each other through smartphones as a routine. However, electronic goods are too heavy an incentive to children, making them pay attention on the screen and lose interest in reality little by little. Many children over two years old can’t be patient with reading and chatting. Wu Yo-yo (吳佑佑), a doctor of child and adolescent psychiatry and an expert on evaluating infant development (兒童青少年精神醫學及嬰幼兒發展評估醫生), said smartphones bring about physical and psychological problems, including lower vigor, not wanting to spent times on study and performing poorly under pressure. Since they’re accustomed to getting feedbacks immediately, children may show verbal violence first, then evolving into aggressive or tacit physical violence. Moreover, electronic goods can’t provide children good models to imitate while developing personality. They may delay the development of language and perception abilities, while affecting interpersonal relationship and communication skills.
Parents’ & Teachers’ Role
The lower the age is, the weaker the self-control of children. Those addicted to smartphones or tablet PC tend to have unstable moods — they will cry and shout while losing smartphone and tablet PC, forcing parents to give them what they want in order to appease them. Children believe they can get everything by making a scene, so they become self-centered. Kindergarten teachers have found that many children are losing self-care ability as they receive information from the internet excessively. In fact, parents’ love is irreplaceable, especially for children under six years of age – the most important time for developing self-confidence and personality. A recent survey by CWLF (The Child Welfare League Foundation兒童聯盟) found that 17.1% of children often go out with parents, 56.9% do so sometimes, and 26% seldom or never. When affection is replaced by electronic goods, it will result in inhospitality, impatience and feeling no love.
Another CWLF study showed that in Taiwan, 35.8% of children between six and 12 years of age owned a laptop and 29.9% owned a smartphone in 2013 and 57.4% owned a laptop and 47.9% owned a smartphone in 2015. Most of children have their own electronic goods, for what? They play games and discuss with their best friends, make them addicted easily, Wu Fu-jin (吳福進), a teacher at Guangfu Elementary School (光復國小), said he has seen a student tell lies in order to play video games and lose focus of life. While parents intend to give their children smartphones as rewards to encourage them to study hard, it might work at first, but after that, it would be more and more difficult for teeachers or parents to teach them.
On the issue of relying on technology for teaching, Xue, Yuan-zhu(薛艷珠), principal of a kindergarten, said, adults think it will be convenient and portable. However, Xue added, it’s not what children really need. Electronic goods are staple goods, so it’s not necessary for children to get in touch with smartphones and tablet pc’s. The kindergarten managed by Xue does not rely on technology – it has no computers in the kindergarten. In comparison, elementary schools that rely on technology for teaching purposes, where students can get the answer by clicking a few buttons and receive too much information at once, may weaken their ability of thinking and integration that is important for improving personal values.
Proper use boosts learning motivation
The result of allowing children to use smartphones is not completely negative. They can learn something if they choose the right content and proper time. A feature of multimedia is presenting a variety contents that are easy to understand, for example, video games can attract children to have stronger academic motivation. According to American Early Childhood Education (美國幼兒教育協會研究), teaching materials relying on technology appropriately can solve the problem of confining learning to fixed time and place. It will not only increase flexibility of study but also allow teachers and students to exchange views and observe each other. Journal of Education Science Research (No. 4, Volume 61) shows that compared to paper textbook, digitized material makes better achievement since transforming words into pictures can improve one’s capacity for thinking.
As time progresses, the widespread influence of technology unavoidable, so the point is changing parent’s sense. The research by CWLF points out many as 60% of parents used electronic goods as a tool to appease children in 2012, indicating a trend that electronic goods have become children’s caregivers and more and more of them got addicted to them. Actually, what children need is go out and play, but parents allow their children to get addicted to electronic goods. To resolve the problem, parents should not to use smartphone in front of kids and let kids get used to life without smartphones. Xue Yan-zhu said, don’t comfort children immediately while they blubber, spend some time until they calm down so that they can speak to them rationally and understand them. Besides, replace 3D toys with 2D toys like juggle and dolls. If parents want to use electronic goods as auxiliary tools, she suggests that they doso until the kids are nine years old, when they have learned self-control, and don’t use 3D gadgets over two hours a day.
Law updated to protect children
To keep children from getting addicted to electronic goods, Taiwan’s government has amended The Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act (兒童及少年福利與權益保障法部分條文修正案). The amendments to the Act, passed by the Legislative Yuan(立法院), were based on the Ministry of Health and Welfare (國健署) suggestions that children under two years old should not use smartphones, and the proper time of use for kids two years and older is 30 minutes every time. Under the amended law, parents or guardians will be fined between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000 if they allow their children to exceed the proper usage time and harm children’s health.
The development of technology is necessary, and unavoidable. Although it brings convenience to our life, adults and children should be more reflective on the upsides and downsides of technological progresses by telling the accuracy and reliability from information explosion by exercising strong self-control. We all need to learn how to use different notions and innovate ideas to cultivate actual power, rather than get addicted to electronic goods and feel regret later in our life.