Almost every child in America right now has grown up in a world doused with technology. We’ve all heard the common concerns about how this affects a child’s upbringing—eyesight, attention span, emotional safety, personal boundaries, etc.—but fewer people recognize the effect technology has on behavior.

Not only does it affect the behavior of children, but it also affects the behavior of adults, which, in turn, changes the parenting and teaching that children experience.

One of the most prevalent issues in children regarding technology is that it quickly becomes their most coveted possession. That wouldn’t be a concern if technology didn’t isolate them from their world so much, but the way that it’s used, it’s not always a healthy reward. Children used to work hard to earn the privilege of playing with their toys or playing outdoors, but now they’re working to earn the privilege of using their electronics.

When screen time is idolized, face-to-face time with other people is devalued. Fresh air drops to the bottom of the priority list, and playing (and therefore learning) becomes a backup preference. The ideal overwhelmingly becomes to stare at a screen to be entertained.

Children are no longer forced to entertain themselves, but are now able to turn off the active parts of their brain to enjoy themselves. By no fault of their own, they’ve lost a huge piece of their ability to deal with boredom.

This cause-and-effect reaction makes learning in the classroom more difficult for kids, which causes frustration, self-doubt, and negative choices. They’re less able to use gained social skills to maintain conversations with their peers. This causes avoidance of peer interaction, inability to express emotion to others, and a desire to escape group activities.

The biggest problem with technology in childhood behavior, however, seems to be the learned expectation that every need or want can be (and should be) met immediately. Instant gratification becomes the norm, instead of the treat.

Items can be bought with the click of a button.
Packages can arrive on the doorstep in twenty-four hours.
Entire seasons of TV shows can be watched in one sitting without having to wait each week for their arrival.
Games can be played at faster processing speeds than any toy could compare with.

Delaying gratification a skill that a lot of children are no longer being forced to learn. When a kid can’t have what they want, or what they’re working for, right away, they become overwhelmed. Frustrated. Sad. Upset.

It’s more than just the average childhood temper tantrum. It’s actual panic and overwhelm at the thought of having to wait. If you’ve never seen it or don’t believe, hang out in an elementary school for a few days.

Are you starting to see the pattern?

Technology is amazing and useful, but it does come with some negatives that would’ve been hard to predict thirty years ago. That’s not to say we should eliminate it, but that we should more closely monitor how our children use it, how often they’re allowed to access it, and what type of idolization it’s allowed to have in their minds.

Have you seen any of these habits in yourself? What about in your children?

Have you noticed them in your teaching or learning?

Let’s talk about some of the ways we can improve! Leave your comments below.