We had a nice interview with Child Health and Disease Specialist Dr. Ayşe Sokullu about child and excessive use of technology.
‘You may spend half an hour watching movies together with your child at the age of 3 to 6. You can extend this period to one hour for 6-9 ages and 1, 5 hour for 9-12 ages.’
Would you please give us an idea about the limits technology has reached in our homes during the last 25 years?
Technology came into our lives in the 1970’ies with the television. The family gatherings and evening amusements transformed to evenings in front of TV. In the 1990’ies, when the cell phones were placed in our hands, we started to look at different screens. Individualization reached its top limits upon the presentation of the smart phones. After the tablets we even stopped watching the same screen together. The food we used to prepare and eat together turned into the behavior to eat while watching something, While we started to separate from each other within the same family, the ruptures in the society became obvious and pervasive along with this technology.
How would you evaluate technology from the children’s point of view?
Children begin to interact with technology with the ultrasound devices even before they are born. After birth they are under the continuous surveillance of cameras. The moment they are born, they see cameras or more often cell phones in the hands of their parents. As the perceptions of the children start to improve, they are encouraged to touch and play with these devices. Thus, they start living with technology. According to the results of 2013 surveys it is observed that 2 years old children already know how to use technology. In 21% of these 2 years old children, they have their personal TV sets in their rooms. The rate of children who already know technology is 90%. 50% of the 5 years old children use technology regularly. When we look at 6-8 year old groups, the rate of personal TV sets reach to 40%. According to some surveys in the USA, the TV sets are operating all day in 50% of the population. The average time period spent against the TV, telephone, computer or tablet is 7 hours per day among the school ages. This 7 hours is an important period of time if you deduct the sleeping time.
What is the limit of intemperance in the usage of technology according to your view?
According to us, the limit of intemperance is to spend the majority of our time with technology after the daily essentials of our time such as sleeping, eating and cleaning ourselves. To give you an example, we do not suggest any 12 year old child to spend more than two hours with technology within his 5-6 hours spare time. So, we can fix the intemperance limit as 30% of their total spare time.
What type of activities will be more useful for the improvement of the children instead of technology?
We expect our children to improve by experiencing. There are four major fundamentals we care about. These are, movement, touching, communicating with others and contact with the nature. These four elements help them to complete their improvement. However, technology interrupts each of these fundamentals. They neglect to move because they watch sitting,. They do not communicate with the family members or other children, they do not touch or hug each other and many children cannot play together. Thus, they lose contact and communication with other people. So, automatically the final element, contacting the nature becomes out of the picture. In the end, children receive a lot of audio-visual impulses above their limits and cannot sustain their improvements to reflect to these stimulus. According to my personal view, technology has a negative impact on the improvement of children because, asides from the direct damages it causes, it detains children from many useful activities. Instead of sitting and watching TV with the family, a child has to communicate with other people, go out and play with his friends and has to improve his experiences. Unfortunately, a good boy watching TV or sitting with a tablet in his hand is preferred by the families instead of a child running around.
What are the guidelines to designate the relations of children with the technology in our times while we are intertwined with the technology?
Although we cannot stay apart, we can protect our children from the damages of technology. We should never leave them alone with technology until they are at least 2,5 years old. This is the period which the brain functions of the children improve. The nutrition habits and the basic functions of his personality forms just at this time period. Therefore, this period is extremely important and please do not hand your child any technological devices until this age. After this age, if the child should watch something on any technological device, please do not leave him alone and stay next to him and watch together. During this period you must interact and talk to your child about what you are watching. Please do not leave your child alone with the internet especially. You must closely observe what he is doing on internet. We must pay special attention to the cartoons though many of them seem to be innocent. Although they are made for children, most of them are not different from adult films and may contain some violence. If a child watches these films continuously, after a while this violence becomes a normal behavior. Meantime, you may not be aware but your child may receive subliminal messages from these cartoons and learn some certain patterns. The child then memorizes these patterns and applies it to his daily life and then, he cannot come out of this circuit. Therefore, these cartoon movies are very powerful tools which can be used for bad or good purposes. In fact, please do not leave your children alone while watching a cartoon or any movie.
What should be the age of using technology?
Between ages 3 to 6 you can spend half an hour together with your child watching such movies. You can extend this period to one hour for 6-9 ages and 1, 5 hours for 9-12 ages. For children older than 12, please pay attention not to exceed this period for more than two hours. For our days these rules may seem very strict but there are some families which can apply these rules. Because, even the adults find it difficult to apply these rules for themselves also. Thus, we can see the difference of the children whose families can apply these rules. These families have healthier children especially in means of obesity and learning disorder.
Is excessive use of technology causing physical or psychological disorder?
There is a long list of problems for the children using the technology all the time. The major problems are diabetics, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, and some other disorders. Eventually, you may observe communication disorders and failure in learning and in school life. Children using the technology show less interest in books.
Does technology have any useful aspects asides from its damages?
We know that forcing a child to sit down and read for 8 hours will not do him any good. We have to think the same for technology as well. Although some useful results may be seen on children using technology, we must consider what we are losing at the same time and the results of these damages will appear in the long term. Therefore, it will be very useful to control our child and his relation with technology within a strict plan and schedule.
What type of a society shall we expect with the Z-Gen and afterwards?
Our present adults are the last generation who have succeeded to live within the nature. So, the people born after year 2000, which we call the Z-Gen do not know much about the nature and therefore will not be able to teach their children where to stop. For this reason, the Z-Gen should be aware of their childhood. We have to achieve this. They reach the information quickly and at an early age, therefore they lose the sense of curiosity. Schools should take responsibility and prepare special events where the child contacts the nature directly. The period spent on computers must be limited and the attention of the child should be diverted to hand craft methods. As families, we have a great responsibility. We must not hand our children any technologic device just for the sake of our comfort. The main point here is to be an example to our children. If we can limit the time we spend on our smart phones, we shall have more time to spend for and with our families.
Thank you very much.
You can watch video interview with Child Health and Disease Specialist Dr. Ayse Sokullu below in Turkish.