Technology and the Psycho-Social Development of the Child

Whole foods recharge my internal battery: My technologies seemingly amp my spirits, but inconspicuously drain my life force.


I had to laugh while watching a commercial of a popular educational app because it portrayed the child as “so much happier” and claimed that he “loves to learn;” however, take that technology away and see how that kid will function.  I bet the kid would suddenly get moody or throw a tantrum, refuse to learn using other resources, and would nag the mother as to when he could play again on that device.  Let me preface by stating that not all kids are the same, I know.  But we’ve seen it first hand – most kids have iPads provided by their schools and once you take it away…. it’s like Jekyll and Hyde!  [Granted some children have varying disabilities which contribute to their inability to adapt to a change or they may need adaptive technology for communication- Those individuals show the same behaviors, yet often need the technology to “level the playing field”].  We’ve seen the behaviors with our own son and his “typical” friends.  Technology is messing with our kids’ bodies and minds!  One study concluded that the increased use of “communication technologies” (e.g., texting, email, Facebook, Twitter) is linked to higher levels of social anxiety and internalization of emotions, peer aggression (both cyber and physical), and an overall maladjustment related to relationships and social development (Cyr, Berman, & Smith, 2015).  Another article- unrelated to technology- noted that aggressive behaviors are often caused by social and emotional issues, attention problems, ADHD and PTS, narcissism, and self-esteem issues brought on by the mother (Priddis, Landy, Moroney, Kane, 2014).  [Question: Is it possible for an undeveloped mind/ child who may not be able to separate reality from what they see on the screen suffer from PTS b/c they internalize the story as their own?  Possible study idea?].  These precursors may be exacerbated in young children after prolonged use of technology.  Previously, I thought it was just the violent superhero shows or video games with scary creatures and fighting, but it seems to be usage of any TV, computer, or mobile device.  I believe that kids are hypersensitive to the content and stimulation that these technologies provide.  Even though they seem zoned out when watching, they are really immersing themselves into the stories or playing the games.  They are bombarded with commercials having a plethora of colors, lights, sounds, and even varying dimensions.  They have been trained- by all the coming attractions- to lack attention : Always…. what’s next, what’s next, again, again.  Shows, movies, games, and commercials present reality and fantasy without distinguishing which is which.  When they are done, they have a great deal of “drama” and energy inside that they haven’t released and therefore, it manifests as disrespect (or an out-of-place assertion of confidence), anxiety and entitlement for more with no regard for what may need to happen in real time, physical over-exuberance, inferiority to their heroes causing a reduced self-esteem, and often a reduced ability to cope with real problems and people.  Before we pulled our son from the kindergarten class he was attending, we had noticed that since he started using the iPad daily, he had this glazed over look in his eyes.  He was often angry, anxious, and overly aggressive with his sister and me.  After many trials (to determine validity of my idea), I concluded that these negative attitudes and aggressive behaviors were not due to daily stresses, but due to “when will I get to play the iPad again.”

Not only is the increased use of technology messing with the temperament and psychological development of our children, it’s creating a backslide in social maturity and relatability.  We invited one particular friend over who was supposedly our son’s best bud in school.  Our son isn’t attending that school anymore; therefore, one would think that these two would be excited to see each other.  However, this kid hardly got in our door and his iPad was already out with a game loaded.  He plopped down on the couch and started playing.  He barely said “hello” to our son.  It’s incredible that kids would rather play with a computer than with each other.

As a matter of “not” fact, but of observation and discussion, kids do not know how to play anymore.  I grew up with the understanding that children first learn to play dependent on their parents’ or caregivers’ modeling.  Next they learn to play alone (independent).  They begin to play closer and closer to others and then next to another child but not with him (parallel play).  Finally they learn to play with other children (interdependent) [Adults also demonstrate these stages in their relationships].  I once thought that sending our child to school would promote a healthy social life; however, we found a lack of social monitoring and teaching led to social regression, especially since school-age children are highly susceptible to external influences. Parents beware:  It isn’t necessarily the best placement just because there may be 12-30 other kids with whom your kid can play.  If the social interactions aren’t monitored with 4, 5, and 6 year olds, then kids are learning from kids rather than from the adults that should be teaching them.  The quality of social interactions with teachable moments is more important than quantity of interactions.  You cannot call sitting next to other kids and playing the iPad as parallel play: Kindergarten classes should have play house areas, puzzles, independent science exploration, etc. according to Froebel’s* original design.  If your kindergarten does not have these areas, beware- your kid will probably be doing worksheets or iPad play as “busy work.”  I’m so glad we pulled him out of the public school district and got rid of the iPad.  I know that I can’t deny that we are in an age where technology rules:  It is and forever will be a part of our lives.  However, I do believe the length of usage should be monitored in young children.  Our son has been a lot happier without the chance to play with the iPad looming over his head.  He still gets anxious with the chance of watching shows on the computer, but we’ve minimized the anxiety with a schedule of what needs to happen before he watches.  Therefore, he is responsible for time management and making the choice to get his work done to watch.  The days where he already knows he won’t be watching or consciously chooses not to get his work done are the best days (as far as behaviors are concerned).  We’ve even started to see that spark of life in his eyes again.

What’s more fun for a kid than watching TV?  Get a box with a hole in the top.  Turn it over on its side.  Gather some toys, dolls, and other props.  Take turns making TV shows.  The parent can make up social stories to act out in their feature presentation.  It’s fun for all ages!

*Friedrich Froebel brought kindergarten to America from Germany.  He believed children should learn through self-directed exploration.  They should learn mainly through play and daily chores.

References

Cyr, B., Berman, S., & Smith, M.  (2015). The Role of Communication Technology  in Adolescent Relationships and Identity Development. Child & Youth Care Forum, 44(1), 79-92.  doi: 10.1007/s10566-014-9271-0

Priddis, L. E., Landy, S., Moroney, D., & Kane, R. (2014). An Exploratory Study of Aggression in School-Age Children: Underlying Factors and Implications for Treatment. Australian Journal Of Guidance & Counselling, 24(1), 18-35. doi:10.1017/jgc.2013.12

Men and Women Being Men and Women

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“I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am.”

(-Thomas Cooley)

I am… in relation to you. I am…. in completion with you. (-me)

The Tao describes good and bad, light and dark, heavy and light as dependent on each for meaning: We must know darkness to fully understand light.  We can “know” a “textbook” definition of one; however, without experiencing its opposite, we cannot appreciate the one.  Men and women were created with opposing characteristics for a reason…. so that we may appreciate ourselves fully and completely!  Once we know ourselves, we can know ourselves as a part of One unit.  The circular symbol of Tao has white with a black spot and black with a white spot because although yin and yang are opposites, when interacting with each other, they demonstrate qualities of their opposite.  The best example is the metaphor of the mountain:  One side is mainly sunny with a few shadows; the other is darker with speckles of sunlight.  However, as the sun shifts and our lives fall out of balance, the sunny side can become dark and vice versa.

Throughout my childhood, I had felt more masculine than feminine.  I was jealous of the girls who easily portrayed themselves as “girly” and feminine.  I longed to be a part of a “girl group” as I tended toward having male friends.  As an adult I have embraced my masculinity and have continually sought my inner femininity.  During a creative arts course in college, I discovered that my goddess within comes in three stages:  The sex vixen, the nurturing mother, the wise crone.  However, I cannot fully appreciate these aspects of myself without my counterbalance, my opposites.  I developed my inner femininity and now feel as though I am feminine with a touch of masculinity (rather than the other way around).

During my “the mother” stage- my husband was my counterbalance.  We complimented each other because he could be described as masculine with a pinch of femininity.  [I know, I know, most men want to be told they are “all man” or “not a bit feminine.”  Come on, what does it say about women for a man to “diss” feminine qualities with such comments.  Can you imagine the yin yang symbol as simply a half black, half white circle?].  We balanced each other and kept each other “in check” with our masculine and feminine qualities.  I felt more feminine when he acted with more masculinity.  I tried my best to empower him in being a man:  I trusted him to keep our family safe (physically and financially).  I gave him opportunities to practice chivalry and teach our son “how to be a man.”  I upheld traditional roles concerning work:  I didn’t want to work outside the home because I believed my gifts and knowledge were better suited for raising the kids while he was happier being the “bread winner.”  I made minor decisions and collaborated on big ones; however, ultimately, he was entrusted with the final decision.  I was a wife in joyful submission to my husband.  I was the ruler of our home:  Cooking, cleaning, organizing, decorating, gardening, religion*, rearing and educating the children were my domain.  I did not feel like I was in an inferior role; quite the contrary, the work done in the home left a great impact on the world’s future.  I was a worrier and more serious- often contemplating life’s meaning.  He was carefree and “the fun one.”  I could play the “social game” but chose not to.  He enjoyed being around people, but sometimes “what others think” would get in his way.  I was the dreamer and list-maker.  He was the builder and action-taker.

We were different in so many ways, yet complimented each other; just as do the yin and yang.  Our oneness worked because we knew our individual strengths, weaknesses, passions, and peeves:  I loved myself with greater depth because I “experienced my opposite:” The yang to my yin.  I was free to be a woman because he was free to be a man.

*Traditionally the man should be the “head” in this area; however, it was more fitting- for us- that I took on the role of spiritual leader for our family.

Question:  Does this viewpoint mean that if one doesn’t find another person with whom to be in a relationship, he or she may never fully understand themselves?  What are your thoughts?  Check back for my answer to this question.

Hello world!

Thank you to my friends and family for encouraging me to get this blog “off the ground” and “out of my head.”

[Replacing the words to Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car:” “Get outta my head, get into my blog… ooohhooohhh”].

When sharing my experiences and observations, I’ll try to keep the tangents to a minimum; however, sometimes, they are so “out there” or lame, that they are pretty funny.  Don’t worry though: I’ll always come back around.  There is a method to this madness.

Authenticity is key; therefore, here is why writing is such a huge part of my life.  Many who know me can attest that I hate crowds.  I hate parties with lots of people.  I do not do well with small talk.  I’m the gal at a party in the kitchen because 1) I just don’t know what to say to people if it isn’t meaningful dialogue, 2) I experience energetic sensory overload, and 3) being “busy” is better than being “antisocial.”  In this perfectly busy life, I don’t often get to sit at a coffee shop for hours discussing the philosophies of life [RIP Ike’s Truck Stop].  I don’t get to meet random people, dominate them in a game of chess, then drive 400 miles on a whim… all while discussing the philosophies of life.  I don’t get to smoke a bowl, listen to my friend jam on the acoustic guitar, and write songs… about the philosophies of life [You know who you are….You are an amazing artist: Follow your dreams!].  With three kids, that life just isn’t practical or safe.  So… in order to maintain my sanity, I must do something a little crazy: Spill it all in a blog.  The safe and practical way for the modern-day philosopher [and working single mom; aka “A boss”] to share the love of ideas and learning.

[Songs that best caption who I am: “I’d Have To Be Crazy” by Willie Nelson and “Wide Open Spaces” by The Dixie Chicks]

Happy blogging!