Addressing the Problem of Technology Addiction


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


TV, Computers, the Internet, etc. can have a negative effect on children. The statistics are painting a grim picture and it appears that we are not doing a very good job of controlling the use of these technologies. As a result our kids are suffering. Here are a few statistics from a few years ago and the problem. There is no indication that they are any better today.

        The average American child, ages 2-11, watches 1,197 minutes of TV per week.

        Parents spend an average of 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.

        The average youth watches 1,500 hours of TV per year.

        The average youth spends 900 hours per year in school.

        Fifty four percent of 4-6 year olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending times with their fathers, preferred TV.

But, it is not statistics that convinces us that new technologies can be a detrimental to our children's progress. We all intuitively know that these technologies need to be controlled. A few years back I taught a class to third and fourth graders designed to teach them programming skills on the computer. For the first few weeks of the class the children had difficulty with the idea that they were to be the "controllers" of the computer. They wanted to play the games on the computer not "work to make the computer their servant." It appears that mature adults see the computer and other technologies as devices to help them accomplish tasks. Entertainment is a secondary benefit. Children, on the other hand, seem to see these modern devices as primarily for entertainment.

This pull to be entertained is strong. It requires little work on the part of the receiver and may even be addicting. Overuse of new technologies appears to be part of the reason educators are observing more children who are passive learners. These children seem to approach learning with an attitude that goes something like this. "Learning is something that happens to me not something that I have to work to obtain."

If the misuse of these new technologies is so detrimental then, as parents, it appears that our job is to help our children be the controllers of the technology not the controlled. Here are a few suggestions that may be of help.

        Help children make the transition from wanting to be entertained to creative learners by involving them in as many "hands on" activities as possible. There are activities that can have just as much glamour as the TV or Computer. These include drawing, music, crafts, sports, scouting, etc. If possible be part of these activities so the child has a model. If you can help your child get "hooked" on using the brain as a creator, the new technologies will fall into their proper place.

        Schedule the time spent in front of the TV, video game, or computer. This may be done by holding a family council or scheduling session to choose ahead of time those programs of interest.

        When the kids are getting on your nerves think of other alternatives to turning on the TV. Become involved in an activity that requires some "human" interaction such as taking a walk, baking a cake, raking the lawn, working on a family project, reading a book together, etc.

        If the problem of technology addiction is severe, you may have to resort to drastic measures. One family made it worth it for their kids to give up TV. When the TV stopped working they told the kids they would give them each $100 dollars rather than buying a new TV. They were told that this would be for one year. At the end of the year they got a new TV. By then the kids were so involved in other activities that the new TV took its proper place in their home.

The bottom line is that parents and children alike need to discover their own way to be in control of the technology not controlled by the technology. It may be difficult to do but will be worth the effort.