Smartphones have found a place in nearly every household, and as Generation Z enters into adulthood, researchers have observed some long-term effects of technology on childhood development.

As technology continues to dominate our culture, smartphones have become a child’s companion.

An article from PsychCentral states that 56 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 13 own a smartphone. While that fact alone may come as a shock, it is estimated that 25 percent of children between the ages of two and five have a smartphone.

“It should come as no surprise that smartphones and tablets have now replaced basketballs and baby dolls on a child’s wish list,” PsychCentral reports.

As both children and parents are spending more and more time behind screens, smartphones seem to be an escape from the pressures of life.

Associate Professor of Sociology Dr. Arlie Tagayuna said that handing smartphones to kids works as easy gratification.

“We are giving the message that, if there is any stress or problem, technology is the solution,” Tagayuna said.

Tagayuna explained that, when children are given phones as a distraction, this reduces the amount of personal interaction they receive, which does not allow them to learn to cope in healthy ways.

The PsychCentral article went on to say that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day, missing out on 150 potential face-to-face interactions.

Tagayuna also added that smartphone usage is like a drug and stimulates the same kind of brain activity as drug consumption, meaning this issue is self-perpetuating.

Further, the article goes on to explain Jean Piaget’s theory of how children learn, used by modern-day educators to compare how learning differs because of smartphone usage. Piaget’s theory argues that children need to experience the world around them to accommodate new ideas.

Researchers argue that, if we create a virtual barrier to the understanding of the world, we will interfere with children’s development.

Jeffrey Sargent, chair of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, said that happiness is not found in a device but through relationships, and if parents are giving phones in place of quality time, the parenting aspect will be lost.

Sargent explained that children's increasing use of cell phones may impede their sense of self.

“The use of smartphones is going to have an effect on the development of self-concept because the self develops in a social world,” Sargent said.

To learn more about the research on child psychology and smartphones, check out PsychCentral’s article.

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