The Day My Son Turned Tech … I Mean, Ten
My son has been on my case since he was five to have the latest in tech gadgetry.
He won’t remember what I said 30 seconds ago, but he won’t forget that I promised him something with an ‘i’ in front of it when he turned 10. It’s astounding, really, but it does prove, in some small way at least, that he has the ability to love, can devote himself to a cause, and has staying power! Even if it is for a gadget. The bond between him and lit-up, rectangle-shaped screeny thingees has proven to be unshakeable, and has outlasted most Hollywood marriages.
And yet, now that he has his ‘preciousss’ iPad, it has left me with mixed emotions. I’m happy for him as he branches into a new phase of his life. However, nagging concerns linger, some of which romanticise back to a simpler time, some that relate to technology’s effects on relationships, and others that centre more around the ‘exposure’ to radiation.
I ‘get’ that the world is becoming increasingly ruled by technology and ‘connectivity’, and that our kids are competing with the largest nursery of tech-savvy, but still pimply, critters in history. Technology will prove to be an increasingly massive aspect of all kids’ lives and, these days, they need to know their way around a laptop more urgently than a benchtop. It’s pretty much unavoidable. In a way, I’m actually amazed I held him back so long! Having said that, Mr 10 really didn’t mind. He got his periodic fixes at his friends houses, and life was full of sport, music, fun and homework anyway.
So why did I choose to hold back on technology?
Immersion in technology has a host of anti- social effects that concern me. They manifest as increased insularity, less time spent actually meeting and conversing with friends and family, shorter attention spans and information retention, and therefore a stunted social maturity. This isn’t ideal from such a young age, and I feel kids can miss out on opportunities to live and laugh and form deep personal bonds. Then you have worry about monitoring what they’re actually looking at, which will become more acute as they get older.
Athletic activity gives way to room-time, usually slumped over a computer or tablet in such a way as to have physiotherapists rubbing their hands together. And the creativity spawned from periods of boredom (yes, kids should be allowed to become bored occasionally!) is lost. I can safely say that I miss the kids regularly destroying the lounge room as they build cubby houses, and shooting hoops out the back. Already they would prefer to play Mine-whatever-it’s-called than go to the beach.
What concerns me most as a mother is that exposure to pulsating radiation is poorly understood. Even worse, many don’t even ask the questions that beg asking, such as “Is all this Wifi coursing through my body a good thing?” iPads and iPods emit microwave radiation when surfing the net, and iPads have extra-low frequency magnetic fields. And as we all know from turning our iPhones on, we often pick up multiple Wifi systems from several nearby houses (or shops). Schools in several European countries have even banned Wifi citing health concerns.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified low intensity magnetic fields as possible carcinogens, and research has linked exposure to them with leukemia and immunity disorders.
Exposure standards vary from country to country, were last updated over a decade ago (before wide-scale Wifi use), and are still based on adult exposure, which even the WHO regard as potentially carcinogenic. Children’s skulls are thinner and bodies are still developing, which means we should take radiation more seriously where they are concerned.
I may not have all the answers, but I know I’m not going to take chances with my kids’ health until the research has more data points to (more than likely) highlight the real risks. This is how I approach the use of technology in our house:
- Set limits on play time for technology, whether that be for games, YouTube, or other (if it’s a maths App, I might let them have more …)
- Supervise any forays onto the net, which might even include ‘minimising’ a YouTube video of a favourite song so that they can still listen
- Give the kids extra time as a reward for things such as good behaviour, music or sports practice, and so on
- Ensure that iPads are never placed on the lap, where electric and magnetic fields can expose reproductive organs to harmful radiation
- Turn on ‘airplane mode’ so that any games played or movies watched can be done so in relative safety
- Invest in an iPads cover that shields most of the radiation emitted. Pongs is one model you may like to try
Do you limit your childs technology time? Do you have any extra tips on how to lower exposure to WiFi? I’d love to hear from you.