19/02/2018 12:55 SAST | Updated 20/02/2018 10:45 SAST

Technology Should Not Replace Your Role As A Parent, Says Expert

At best, technology can aid parenting, but it can never take its place.

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Technology cannot replace your role as a parent. While it plays a significant role in our everyday lives and makes life a lot easier, parents should carefully consider the negative impact tech devices can have on a child's overall development.

That's the view of Toy Kingdom's creative parenting expert Nikki Bush.

"Yes, technology is part of the fabric of our lives. But we need to curb the use of tech devices in a child's routine, and find that middle ground when it comes to screen time. This is crucial for a child's developmental needs," Bush says.

For personal development they need to engage with real people on real things and not just the virtual world as seen on screen.

Child obesity and diabetes have become national epidemics in some countries, causally related to technology overuse. Diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), coordination disorder, developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders have also all been associated with technology overuse.

"Children are increasingly viewing the world from a screen, but for personal development they need to engage with real people on real things and not just the virtual world as seen on screen. Moderation between on-screen and off-screen is so important," she says.

We should not be using a cell phone as the draw card to get our children to sleep, or even to eat.

This is her advice on how not to use technology:

As a babysitter

Bush says using a tech device as a babysitter for children is a big no-no. She says children enjoy interaction with their parents, and when mum and dad are not around, an emotional void that a screen cannot fill occurs.

"A laptop or cellphone is no substitute for mum and dad. Children need yes or no answers, and they need engagement. When sidelined by a device, they don't get the answers they need, and that's problematic for them."

She also cautions parents to limit technology where applicable, as it can be quite addictive. It stimulates the secretion of chemicals from the pleasure centre of the brain.

Parent pulling child from touch pad. Computer Addiction

As a disciplinarian

Developing self-regulation and self-discipline are two of life's fundamentals, and Bush encourages parents to avoid using a handheld device or computer as an emotional crutch.

"We should not be using a cellphone as the drawcard to get our children to sleep, or even to eat. Often parents indicate that children can't do anything without the device and as parents, we need to work on changing that," Bush adds.

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As a real-life experience replacer

Technology can rob children from real-life experiences essential for their development. According to Bush, children learn best through concrete learning experiences with real people and real toys in real time.

"These experiences give our children those multisensory experiences of the world, and while technology has so much to offer, we need to ensure that the foundation necessary for their development is set first," Bush says.

Further, too much time spent watching movies on the laptop, or playing video games on the tablet, stunts a child's social skills and ability to interact with friends, family members and even their teachers.

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