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Techno-Tots: Kids and Technology…Are Today’s Toys Harming Your Child?

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Remember when we were growing up and most of us had imaginary friends and playmates, and the lifestyle of The Jetsons seemed more like obscure (unattainable) fantasy rather than a “normal” reality. Well, folks the “space age” is here, or at least well on its way, and it’s becoming a “real” part of your child’s “imaginary” world.

From robotic puppies that respond to commands or to bones held in front of them with yaps, yelps and blinking lights, to dolls that cry and frown when they need to be “changed, and those that “fall asleep” (by shutting there eyes) when rocked, toys stores and kids closets, are bridging the gap between fantasy and truth, as virtual reality is quickly becoming more and more authentic.

Even parents are getting caught up in this illusionary utopia. In fact, industry experts note that a majority of the toys being bought for today’s toddlers, tweens, and teens all have some technological appeal and electronic component to them. And while these toys are visually stimulating, the jury is still out on how they are affecting our children, socially, emotionally, mentally, and even academically.

Researchers stress the importance of paying close attention at the perhaps not so readily noticeable affects and implications virtual toys are having on our children. Many have already begun extensive research into how it is affecting how children perceive and understand life and reality. With toys such as Furbys (able to conduct conversations with the use of over 800 phrases), and other techno pals, children are exposed to playmates and pets that seem to “evolve” and grow (similarly to humans) but that never age, get sick, or really die. And, experts suggest that, that may pose potentially powerful changes in our understanding of life (or lack thereof) and in our psychology.

Another concern experts have is that these “thinking” toys are causing our children to be less creative (since they don’t have to use there imagination as much) and are actually hindering their developmental progress by (doing the “thinking” or “problem solving” for out kids, stifling intellectual growth, shortening attention spans, undermining relationships, and ultimately proving to be a waste of money, as they quickly become outmoded by newer, better technology.

Many child psychologists are even attesting that the warning signs are apparent and so are the negative and disturbing trends. They note that children seem to have trouble sharing, playing cooperatively, display a lack of empathy, and who covet and demand non-stop attention (at will) and constant entertainment and amusement. They even go as far as to suggest that the enthralling and captivating graphics, sounds, etc. of handheld computer games are so successful at capturing a child’s attention and forming an “addiction”, that that child may experience difficulty in social situations and relating to other people. Furthermore, experts worry that with all the violence these games (and toys) often feature, children are being taught earlier and earlier about disrespect, retaliation, and aggression, and they are becoming (themselves) more abusive (even verbally) and aggressive with shorter and shorter tolerance levels and attention spans.
The instant gratification that techno-toys allow for, also makes more “traditional” toys, tasks, and means of amusement seem mundane and boring. What’s worse, say experts, is that without the need or desire to build, problems solve, or develop those skills, children are less able to engage in logical thinking, strive and be persistent, and improve their problem solving skills and techniques.

While experts agree that all age groups are at risk, they express their greatest concerns with regards to younger children, including infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. They suggest that these children are at the peak of their “learning” stage and that techno-toys would do the most “damage” to their progress and development. And they caution parents against (the influx of) toys that make the child the passive recipient to what the toy does.

Experts showed little reluctance in categorizing toys as contributing to creating a nation of couch potatoes beginning with a generation of “crib potatoes. They claim that the general overexposure to television, computers, and now techno-toys, are merely conditioning our youth to grow up passively with little desire to live and experience live or interact with others. Furthermore, they fear that too much TV and computer time can idle the brain’s prefrontal cortex (whose job it is to help with planning, organizing, and sequencing behaviors that control self-control and attention), and may also slow the brain.

Psychologists and child experts alike fear that electronic toys may have a very similar effect. The potentially “good news” is that (some) children may be inclined to limit their own playtime with high-tech toys. Experts suggest that this may be because they get “bored” with the technology and intrinsically “crave” the greater (imaginative) freedom and “cuddle” factor of more traditional toys and games. They note similar effects, (of quickly getting “discouraged” and bored), when children are limited (in their pretend play) by overbearing and regimented parents.

As far as the experts are concerned, parents are probably better off sticking to more traditional means of play and entertainment when it comes to younger children. The note that children NEED to play with other children, be around other adults, play with boxes, pots and pans, dig in the dirt, and basically engage in games and activities that allow them to explore and teach them about the world they live in.

Long Island Technology Articles > Techno-Tots: Kids and Technology…Are Today’s Toys Harming Your Child?

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