Online may be the only place kids have to go

Young girl holds iPad
A young girl holds an Apple iPad on display at Regent Street's Apple store on May 28, 2010 in London, England.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A writer who specializes in technology issues suggests that kids who spend too much time online do so because they don't have a good alternative.

"If you really want your kids to step away from social media and establish face-to-face contact, really what you should do is let them actually hang out face to face" with no adults around, said Clive Thompson, author of "Smarter Than you Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better."

"The reason kids are flocking to social media is that over the last three decades we have systematically eroded the locations in which teenagers can hang out with one another face to face without adults around," he said on The Daily Circuit. "And that's a crucial thing: without adults around. They don't want to come over to your house and hang out there. They want to do what I did and what you guys probably did when you were young, which is to go out and roam around after school.

"They love face-to-face interaction. They are not allowed to do it anymore. We have been cowed by three decades of crazy nightly news reports about violence, to the point where parents don't let their kids out of their view or out of another adult's view, and we've designed subdivisions that don't even have any parks or places where they could go even if they wanted to. And we've passed anti-loitering laws that don't let them do old-school social networking. So we sit around worrying about their online social networking. That's the only place they can ever gather together.

"If you want to get them off their screens, give them a place where they can meet face to face."

A recent report from Common Sense Media shows that time spent using technology — specifically mobile media devices — by younger children has tripled in the last two years, and nearly twice as many young kids are accessing mobile media on a regular basis.

This rapid increase has led pediatricians to create a new set of guidelines for screen time for kids, claiming that excessive media use can lead to weight gain, aggression and sleep issues.

From NPR:

"The concern for risk is that some kids who watch a lot of media actually have poor language skills, so there's a deficit in their language development. We also have concerns about other developmental issues because they're basically missing out on other developmentally appropriate activities," says Dr. Ari Brown, the lead author on the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement discouraging screen time for babies under 2.

[Last month,] the pediatrics group released updated guidelines for children and adolescents. While still discouraging screen time for children under 2, the policy recommends a balanced approach to media in the homes instead of blanket bans. We've laid out some of the latest thinking on screen time for babies and toddlers, below.

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