SPECIAL REPORT: Disconnect to Reconnect
ELMIRA, N.Y.(WENY)-- Technology is a part of the average Americans everyday lifestyle, both at work, and at home. But when we let this Technology come into the home what effect is that having on those around us including our children?
"It's like we can't be bored, we are filling every spare minute we have with technology and that's not healthy," says Renae Carapella-Johnson, Mental Health Therapist.
This boredom is affecting kids as young as two years old, which mental health therapist Renae Carapella-Johnson says can impact their development.
"I've definitely seen, I think a worsening, you know a lack of development of social skills because there is such engagement like I said earlier about they're texting, they're snapchatting, they're doing everything online so their not learning the basic non-verbal verbal skills," says Renae Carapella-Johnson, Mental Health Counselor.
Looking around, even in grocery stores, there is a lot more looking down than there is up. This includes the parents shopping and the children brought along on the trip. When a toddler has an outburst in a store, more and more parents are seen handing the child a phone or device to calm them rather than a toy, book, or other sensory distracting items.
"What I see and what I know from the research I have done is that technology, especially video game play, I mean really does dull our senses, meaning we need brighter lights, we need louder sounds too kind of grab our desensitized attention," says Carapella-Johnson.
A child's frontal cortex, which controls cognitive skills like memory, problem-solving, emotion, and much more, its believed to develop until they are in their early 20's. So for children two and under, it has been recommended allow little to no screen time and after that still, keep the levels at a minimal amount.
"Throw a few non-electronic toys in a bag and snacks, like snacks are critical because a lot of the meltdowns are that children are hungry. It's after school and they're hungry. So to the extent that you can just have that little backpack or care package and hand those things to your child opposed to handing them a device," says Kimberly Ann Kopko, The Parenting Project: Healthy Children, Families & Communities
Asking the average parent to not introduce screens to children before the age of two has been found to be next to impossible, and not enough time passed to see direct effects of how phones affect the brain, but there has been studies of how video games do.
"There was a really powerful study that I wanted to reference, it was done in 2011 by the military and they found that engagement in a video game actually had a better impact on pain management for wounded soldiers than morphine," says Carapella-Johnson
So if a game can be stronger than morphine--how strong is watching videos on Instagram and snapchat? While technology ensures we are always connected and communicating it's all through a screen impacting how we relate to each other.
"That lack of face to face communication is impacting social skills and there's no opportunity to read body language or facial cues, or to pick up on emotions because it's simply just through a device," says Kopko
This is not only affecting young mind's socials skills but also their learning abilities in a classroom.
"I mean attention is really the gateway to learning. I mean so if they are falling asleep in class obviously they are not learning, they are not retaining that information. It affects their ability to regulate their emotions, so they are more likely to experience things like anxiety and depression and anger outburst, irritability," says Carapella-Johnson
If you are concerned about the amount of time your child is spending on their device and they have an apple product, you can go into the settings on their phone, find the words screen time, and you'll be able to see exactly how much time they've spent on their phone that day and through the week. There is also app options that allow you to control what apps they are using and how much time they are using these apps and the phone for.
"If it's a question of should I communicate using a device or not, yes you should. But you should also try to have as much of that be face to face as you can," says Kimberly Ann Kopko, The Parenting Project
Staying connected is important, but making sure you disconnect is as equally important.