Technology gifts such as tablets, computers, laptops, music players, gaming systems, smartphones, and other similar products are fantastic resources that provide outstanding avenues for education, communication and games – but they should complement, not replace traditional learning, games or physical activity, according to the President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Dr Steve Hambleton.
“Overuse can have harmful effects on both learning ability and health.
“Children and young people are definitely growing up in times when people are increasingly reliant on technology, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of genuine interpersonal interactions and real experience.
“Some apps and computer programs can enhance children’s understanding in areas such as literacy, science and maths, and these apps and programs should be used in tandem with traditional learning methods at school and at home.
“Parents should look for apps that promote higher order thinking and which could encourage interaction with parents and other family members.
“There are recommended limits on the amount of children’s screen time so it is good to encourage children to make the most of this time.
“For children over two years old, two hours per day should be the limit. Flat screens shouldn’t be used as babysitters for extended periods of time.
“It is also important to help children and adolescents balance their media usage. Too much time spent in front of a screen can be harmful to their development.”
Dr Hambleton said holidays are a good time for adults to take a break from technology, too.
Recent figures indicate that, on average, Australians are spending one day every week (23 hours and 18 minutes), with our weekly social media use found to be higher than that of any other country (at six hours and 52 minutes).
Technology use among adults can have a harmful impact on interpersonal relationships.
A 2011 study undertaken by Relationships Australia found that the more likely people are to use technology to communicate, the lonelier they were likely to be. The survey also challenged the notion that the elderly were the most likely to be lonely, with findings indicating that those aged 25-34 years were most likely to be lonely, followed by those aged 18-24.