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By Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

Baby holding iPhone

When I was a kid (gosh, I sound old), I remember playing outside with my brother a large amount of time. We went to the community pool, to the park, to our neighbor’s houses to play; we rode our bikes and scooters, and we played with jump ropes and hula hoops. Sure, we played the Oregon Trail on our computer and we did play some Tetris, Mario Brothers, and Duck Hunt here and there, but we spent the majority of the time waiting for the computer to load and blowing the dirt and dust out of the Nintendo game cartridge. Entertainment now is primarily through the use of electronics like computers and laptops, smartphones and smartwatches, and tablets.

So, what does all of this mean? There are definitely varying opinions on this whole topic. Some people would say that the use of electronics have caused a multitude of problems and have impacted society in a negative way, while others would say the very opposite. I happen to see the use of electronics and different styles of play as both good and bad, having both positive and negative impacts. Here are my thoughts:

The Negatives:

  1. Internet dangers – We are all aware that there are predators out there constantly trying to connect with our children. Fortunately, there are ways that this can be monitored and prevented via content- filtering tools. But, like most things, these tools are not 100% effective. Parents will need to keep an eye on any internet activity that their children are engaged in.
  2. Physical Activity – It is obvious that the more time children spend using electronics, the less time they will spend exerting physical energy. There are some video gaming systems and video games that do utilize physical exertion.
  3. Personal contact/social interaction – It’s difficult to have any meaningful and fulfilling social interaction and personal contact with someone else while your eyes and hands are concentrating on your phone or laptop. But, there are opportunities for other types of connections, like the use of social media.
  4. Development – There is not yet a lot of research on how the use of electronics is impacting the physical development of children. But, some people speculate that children are lacking in motor development, problem solving skills, and verbal communication skills because of electronics. There are, however, other schools of thought that the use of electronics may be helpful with development through the teaching of fine motor skills and various apps that therapists use to enhance verbal communication skills.

The Positives:

  1. Educational tool – There are so many different options for learning with the use of electronics. There are educational apps, questions that can be answered with the click of a button, and access to distance learning like never before.
  2. Preparation for the future – Let’s face it. The use of electronics is here to stay. So, we better prepare our children to be ready for the future. Plus, I think we could probably take some tips from them when it comes to navigation and utilization.
  3. Entertainment – Yes! I said it. Electronics can be a great place to find entertainment. Games, movies, social media, etc. And you can access all of that in one spot!
  4. Connecting – If it weren’t for video conferencing, military families and other families separated by physical distance wouldn’t be able to see and talk to each other. Without email and social media outlets, we may not communicate and connect with others that are not in our immediate physical locations.
Like what you read here? Join us for our webinar What the Tech?: Thinking about Technology & Parenting on June 30, 2016 at 11:00 am ET. Click here for more details.

This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, social media and webinar coordination specialist for OneOp. The OneOp team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about OneOp on our Facebook and Twitter.

Blog Image: Photo from Flickr [Too many late night texting his girlfriend (s) by Andrew Seaman, May 3, 2014, CC BY-ND 2.0]