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Tech Talk

Tablets, like tech crack to kids

10/16/2013

Remember the good old days when lousy parenting meant plopping your kids down in front of a TV for hours on end? Cartoons, “Sesame Street” and sing-a-long VHS tapes were the cure-all for kids who wouldn’t settle down. Today, it appears tablets are slowly supplanting the idiot box for babysitting America’s youth. While tablets may not rot children’s brains, they might be doing something much worse: turn them into addicts.

iPads are the hot-ticket gift for today’s preteens, according to Nielsen research, leapfrogging the longstanding champions, television and gaming consoles. At first it seems like the perfect gift. Tablets are loaded with educational applications teaching everything from reading and math to software programming and foreign languages. But those brain-building programs turn out, in most cases, to be gateways to the real drug of tablet gaming. What starts as harmless fun playing “Candy Crush” and “Angry Birds” can quickly escalate into hardcore first-person shooters and round-the-clock role-playing cyber fantasy adventures.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, overuse of tablets by young children can lead to very serious social anxieties, such as attention-deficit disorders, media addiction, even obesity. Iowa State University’s Douglas Gentile, one of the leading researchers in the field of media use among youth, says technology use should be completely avoided by children under the age of 3 to avoid these issues, let alone full-fledged addiction.

Apparently unfettered tablet use is every bit the evil of too much TV and consuming mountains of sugar. Still, there is no need to give your child up for adoption and start fresh with a newborn. Gentile’s research shows the best way to break your kids of their touchscreen habit is the same as everything else, become more involved, monitor more closely, cap tablet usage and, lastly — and this is the hard one — cut them off and say, “No.” Think of it this way: Would you rather play with your child now, or be dealing down the road with a live-in, overweight 30-year-old who can’t take two minutes to put down his damn iPad and find a job? CV

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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