Many parents today may believe their children have a lot more distractions than what they did as a kid with the invention of Facebook and texting, but is this really the case?
US child psychologist Professor Douglas Gentile says Facebook and texting aren't any better or worse than what today's parents did as teens: watch TV. But he says they do pose greater social risks, such as cyberbullying, the Associated Press reported.
The Iowa State University researcher, who studies the effects of media on children, says texting, Facebook and video games are not inherently bad, nor are they any better than watching TV.
He said parents are struggling to adjust to a new world where kids would rather look at a mobile phone screen than have a conversation or join in on family activities.
"[For] the older generation, it's not their culture. There is a resistance to it," Professor Gentile said.
He said the experience of watching TV as a family is still a "shared experience" with the family. But when I child is texting a friend from school it is it's a "private experience," he said. "It's like they're whispering secrets. And we find it rude."
Professor Gentile said that if a child is brought up around protective factors, which include good teachers, a family that values education, culturally rich experiences or a love for reading, the screen time doesn't really matter.
"If you had all these protective factors, then that one little risk factor of [screen time], who cares?" he said.
One thing parents should worry about though is that these devices are encouraging multitasking, Professor Gentile said.
"Multi-tasking is not really good for anyone," he said. "Your reflexes speed up, you're quicker to look over your shoulder and notice little noises or lights. This is not what they need when they get to the classroom and you're supposed to ignore the kid next to you.
"Scanning to see when the next message comes, this may not be good for kids. The more distractions you have, the worse your performance is. Getting kids to turn off their phones, iPods, and computers in order to concentrate on homework and reading, I think that's a fight worth having."
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