Technology is playing an increasingly central role in the lives of children both at home and in school. Approximately 72 percent of children have access to a computer in the home and 67 percent have a video game system, says Brent Conrad, a clinical psychologist writing for TechAddiction. As a parent, it is important to understand the potential effects of excessive computer use to make an informed decision about the appropriate amount of time you should allow your child to use a computer.
A report published by The Future of Children says that 25 percent of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and excessive use of computers is an important environmental contributor to this statistic. Other possible physical effects include seizures, tendinitis and changes in heart rate. About Kids Health highlights the potential risks to children's backs. Poor posture while spending long periods at a computer may lead to musculoskeletal disorders.
Impact on Vision
Computers may also impact on a child's vision and cause several problems with eyesight. Potential problems include headaches, fatigue, eye discomfort, blurred vision and dry eyes. These difficulties are often caused by the glare of the computer screen, computers positioned at the wrong height for children and poor lighting. Excessive computer use can lead to vision problems in adulthood.
Social Skills, Behavior and Relationships
Although moderate computer use is unlikely to have any effect on social skill development, an estimated 7 to 9 percent of children use computers excessively, and this has a detrimental effect on social skills, relationships with others and behavior. Also, children who play violent computer games are more likely to be violent and hostile, according to The Future of Children. About Kids Health supports these views, stating that communicating via social media or spending long periods on the computer hampers social and educational development and omits essential elements of human relationships. Furthermore, children who play games are less tolerant of frustration, and this can present them with challenges elsewhere in life.
Computer Use Linked to Insomnia
A study published in the Hippokratia Quarterly Medical Journal in 2010 examined the effects of excessive computer use on the sleeping habits of Greek adolescents. The results showed that those adolescents who experienced insomnia were those who had used computers for longer periods of time. They concluded that computer use was a significant cause of insomnia in adolescents.
The Positive Effects
Marie Evans Schmidt and Elizabeth A. Vandewater, writing for The Future of Children, say the impact of excessive computer use is not all negative, as some evidence suggests that children who play video games have better visual attention than children who do not play computer games. These included faster processing, faster attention deployment and greater attention capacity. Another possible benefit is the improvement of spatial skills, such as mental rotation of shapes.
- TechAddiction: Children and Technology -- Stats for Computer Use in the Home; Dr. Brent Conrad
- The Future of Children: The Impact of Computer Use on Children's Activities and Development; Kaveri Subrahmanyam, Robert E Kraut, Patricia M. Greenfield and Elisheva F Gross
- About Kids Health: Computers and Child Development
- Hippokratia Quarterly Medical Journal: Impact of Computer Use on Children's Vision; N Kozeis
- Hippokratia Quarterly Medical Journal: Insomnia Symptoms Among Greek Adolescent Students With Excessive Computer Use; K E Siomos, D Braimiotis, G D Floros, V Dafoulis and N V Angelopoulos
- The Future of Children: Media and Attention, Cognition, and School Achievement; Marie Evans Schmidt and Elizabeth A. Vandewater
- Polka Dot/Polka Dot/Getty Images