Gadgets affect child development

Parents have been advised not to replace physically and socially interacting with their sons and daughters with gadgets, because neglecting this activity can impact on their child's development. This is according to education psychology expert Dr Stevanne Auerbach, who revealed some in her field are cautious about how technology can affect cognitive and social abilities.

Speaking of toys such as the electronic Teddy Ruxpin or the iPad, Dr Auerbach said: "Some of the traditional play value often is removed, and there can be repercussions that are detrimental to children."

The expert stated that even the most advanced apps and gadgets cannot replace crayons, puzzles, books and stuffed animals and that, while developing an aptitude for technology is advantageous, it should not replace reading, board games and outdoor play.

Although Teddy Ruxpin is a toy designed to encourage children to pick up a story book, Dr Auerbach said some of the traditional play value is removed by the innovation, which can be detrimental to their development.

In response to the study, Dr Ruth Lowry, a Chartered Psychologist from the University of Chichester, said: "Government recommendations in relation to physical activity suggests that children should be involved in physical activity for at least an hour a day and that sedentary activities and time spent sitting should be minimised.  

"Whilst these recommendations are primarily aimed at improving the current and future health of children, this study reminds us of the social benefits of promoting physical activity with children. The authors suggest that play using gadgets and technology may fail to meet cognitive and social developmental needs which can be achieved through outdoor physical activity.  

"Researchers have previously found that structured activities such as sport and organisations as well as unstructured play provides children with the opportunity to foster friendship, practice interpersonal skills, assume responsibility, test their risk perception, develop morally (turn taking, following rules, resolving conflict), exert self-discipline and experience leadership.  

"These social skills would be hard to nurture without interactions with peers and parents. Not only do parents provide access to activities and opportunities for their children, they also assist the child to interpret the experience.  

"Children enjoy activities more when they interact positively with their parents, receiving their encouragement, support and positive feedback.   

"In addition, structured activities outside of the home often allow children the opportunity to interact with people in their wider community and therefore create greater social cohesion."

Dr Lowry suggests visiting the following websites for further reading:

You can follow Dr Lowry on Twitter.