Electronic devices and young children

MORE children are starting school with serious speech problems because parents relying on smartphones and iPads as “babysitting” tools are allowing excessive use, education leaders have warned.  Up to one in eight children in some preschool and Reception classes need speech therapy because they have been starved of conversation and not read to enough at home. (LINK)

This is really sad, especially the last sentence about children “being starved of conversation”.

What are some parents doing and I use the word some, as many parents are doing the right thing?

Whilst it isn’t new to use electronic devices as a babysitting tool (the TV has been used for years), it would appear that a wider range of devises are now being used (computers, tablets and smart phones) for longer periods per day perhaps with younger and younger  children.  However it was interesting to read further down the article that it wasn’t just the increase in electronic devices that could be affecting childhood development,  it was . . .  smaller families, less time with extended families and fewer play opportunities were among “lifestyle changes” that might explain the problem. . . Increasingly busy parents who felt pressured to develop children’s academic rather than social skills was another possible explanation.

Times have changed and it hasn’t been good for our children. When I was growing up in the 1970s I had lots of interactions with people and no interaction with electronic devises (we didn’t own a TV).  Now the tables have flipped and children have hours of time with electronic devises and not enough time with “real” people.

As a child:
  • I had lots interactions with brothers, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles.
  • Went on play-dates to my school friends’ homes (my mum knew their mums very well).
  • We visited friends on Sundays for afternoon tea which taught us how to behave in social gatherings.
  • We had dinner together with lively conversation.
  • I was read to each night and exposed to many books.
  • Mum often took me to the grocery store, to the butcher, to the library and the places like the bank and post office where I had plenty of opportunities to communicate with grown-ups (with people who knew us personally).
However many of these opportunities to interact with others are vanishing; with extended families no longer as important as in the past (or live nearby any more), families have shrunk in size, family time is no longer considered as necessary (such as eating together), many tired parents don’t spend as much time reading to their children and perhaps quite different to my  childhood – after school activities fills a child’s life to the point where they don’t have time for creative play. And with the introduction of online shopping and banking and with shopping rushed on the way home at the supermarket there is no longer that old-fashion personal connection any more.

Now, one could argue that women working is entirely to blame (and many would) — yes, it has caused some of these social changes (but some of these changes started to appear from the 1950s when women were at home).  And I wouldn’t jump to conclusions and say that poor communication skills was the result of sending children to childcare (i.e. working mothers) as most childcare centres do not use electronic devises (they even limit TV viewing) and carers spend lots of time reading and interacting with children and the children interacting with each other. All good for communication. However I do think parents see themselves as “too busy/exhausted” to do many of the things we use to do however I do question if they are any busier that in the past or are not using their time as wisely as they should. We have so many modern gadgets around the house to make our lives easier and many mothers rely heavily on convenience foods these days, we shouldn’t be quite as busy is in the past. I sometimes wonder if parents have in fact become lazy parents and find it easier to pop a child in front of an iPad or TV rather than sitting down and playing with their child. 

Enough of my ramblings on this topic.

PS Hope this all makes sense, writing this as my chicken stir fry cooks!



  1. Jo, we had this problem and I am with my kids 24 hours a day...it's not a working mom thing...it's a convenience/addiction thing. Good post, hope the stir fry is delicious. With your cooking skills, I'm sure it is.

    1. I think young people see it as normal, it is us oldies that don't (as we have seen life before these devices) and I am not sure they completely understand where we are coming from.

  2. Good and interesting post. My kids are 8 and 11 and neither of them have their own device, nor do we have a gaming system. Their time on any electronics we have is very limited, including the tv. I have come very close to 'giving in' when they say, 'but, Mom, all my friends have their own iPhone!'. Many children are much younger and have all the latest gadgets, including several of my nieces and nephews, but I have managed to stick to my guns. I can see the allure of using a gadget to 'babysit', and the argument of 'everybody else is doing it', is a tough one. But, I feel as if my and my husband's decisions have already greatly paid off. When we go sit around the fire together, not one of us brings a phone, or a game, or even our own music. We, at least so far, are still an engaged family. I hope there are many others. And I hope people get better at balancing their lives with technology, because it really can be a wonderful tool.

    1. There is such peer pressure these days to have the latest gadgets it does make it very hard for parents. and even if the children don't have the gadgets, it is likely the parents do and then it becomes difficult for them to say no to their children. There is nothing worse than sitting in a cafe and see all the young and older on their phones or tablets and ignoring others around them, but that sadly is the way we are going. .I think you are on the right path with the way you are going.

  3. I'm thankful that while we have internet and enjoy DVDs and my husband and I have smartphones... We have not given in and used ANY of them as babysitters. We allow the children to watch fun DVDs when they're sick (and only for a time, not all day even then), and we use DVDs for educational purposes... But the rest of the time the children read books, play games, go outside... All the things we did when we were children. They love reading to each other, too, even when I've been busy working from home and haven't found time to read to them.
    Technology is a very useful tool, but we MUST have self-control otherwise our children won't learn self-control as they grow older, either!

    1. I just read an article (which I can't find now) that parents are so addicted to their devices that they are ignoring their own children and kids as a result are playing up. What a mess!! I agree that phones, tablets and computers are all great devices and have many positive benefits - however it seems we just don't know how to manage our time and like so much we do, we get addicted.

      All things in moderation is a problem in our modern society :( you are right - self-control is what is needed.

      When I was growing up my mother rarely ever entertained us, we were expected to entertain our selves. I can remember from time to time saying "I am bored" and getting in big trouble!! I don't think many modern children know how to entertain themselves anymore.

  4. I agree with you on this. I also think that children don't have the space and time to develop their imaginations, which is so important. A lot of thinking and creativity is being lost when we become passive spectators.

    1. Only the other night on the news there was a sad story about parents - too many parents are addicted to their devices that they are neglecting their children. They take their children to the park then spend all the time on the phone rather than playing with their children. No wonder we have children who a hooked on these devices when mum and dad are too!


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