Too Connected Too Young: Is Technology Hindering or Helping Kids at School?

by Jordan Richardson on September 3, 2012

It’s that time again. For parents, it’s time to ship the little and not-so-little ones off to their respective desks and cubbyholes. For those of us not so “blessed” with little and not-so-little ones, it’s time to reclaim the shopping centres, movie theatres and other avenues of life formerly crawling with rows and rows of smartphone-attached tweens.

And as those kids venture back to school, getting them there requires more than just a healthy-ish lunch and a cool backpack. These days, kids just aren’t kids without the latest smartphones, tablets and tech gadgets.

But has it gone too far? Are kids “too connected” for their own collective good?

According to research, the more non-classwork time kids spend on computers, the more their academic prospects suffered. That may sound like common sense to most of us, but some kids – and many parents – actually need reinforcements.

A 2010 joint study by Ohio State University and the Open University of the Netherlands discovered a relationship between Facebook use and academic difficulties. Facebook users had GPAs in the 3.0 to 3.5 range and studied only one to five hours per week, while non-Facebook users (the salt of the earth, I hear) had GPAs in the higher 3.5 to 4.0 range and studied 11 to 15 hours per week.

There’s also the budding connection between “screen time” and obesity and the speculated connection between obesity and lower grades in school. This is reinforced by a June 2012 study that found obese students (in a pool of 6,250 kids from kindergarten to fifth grade) did worse on math tests than those who weren’t obese.

The study also illuminates a connection between obesity and a child’s emotional and social wellbeing, which is connected to our society’s relentless demonization of overweight and obese individuals of any age group.

There are some lessons here, but the studies don’t really go beyond solidifying what we already know: moderation is key.

It is important for kids to be educated about technology because technology is the pivot by which today’s society swings, like it or not. And there are studies that prove that a little technology can go a long way: video games help eyesight.

The trick isn’t in creating hard rules about not using technology or Facebook at all. The trick is in reasonableness and in ensuring that kids know what technology means in the larger scale of things, in understanding how it works to connect them to a broader world with other kids who should be putting the smartphone down and doing their homework – now.

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