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The IPad Kid Phenomenon

Raluca-Mara Mare 

Staff Writer

Via The New York Times

Kids are reputed to cry, yell, and express anger every two minutes over something silly. Therefore, the modern-day fast solution to this disruption of equilibrium is to give the kid a tablet to distract them.

Memes of this phenomenon surfaced in the media in recent years, attributing the now famous “IPad Kid” stereotype to any child with Cheeto fingers and persistent cough using a dirty tablet to watch Cocomelon during long car rides. Children are not really learning anything from these programs despite many child-oriented YouTube channels portraying themselves as helpful and instructive like Cocomelon. This animated story features flashing lights, a diverse range of colour shades, and memorable music, with scene changes occurring every one to three seconds. As these elements come together on a tablet, the child's developing mind gets overstimulated, causing a daily dependence on this addictive drug. Children are more interested in the visual and aural experience than in the story or educational value of the video presented. 

The integration of technology also interferes with the period of crucial social and emotional development in childhood. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 70% of parents today acknowledge that their child's use of technology is impairing their social skills and capacity to build meaningful relationships. The new generation will grow up lacking genuine relationships and an established sense of self as their reliance on technology will replace the fundamental abilities acquired during early childhood development. In light of this, parents who expose their young children to the world of Internet entertainment should be mindful of their potential negative effects.

Consequently, it is important to understand how technology addiction is created among children. Technology addiction is a behavioural issue brought on by excessive interaction with devices. Interacting with an entertaining technological device releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that signals the prefrontal cortex, responsible for organizing and planning tasks. This feeling of pleasure and satisfaction becomes addictive, which motivates the children to keep using their tablets and technological devices. Most parents of little children have seen their zombie offspring losing consciousness in front of a screen, followed by fits and tantrums when the gadget is removed. This sudden change of behaviour is a result of the sudden drop in dopamine caused by the removal of the device. “The withdrawal of it is experienced as painful,” says Dr. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “You experience transient withdrawal like you’re coming down from a high,” continues Dr. Christakis. Young children lack the emotional self-control necessary to regularly make that adjustment without becoming anxious.

There is still no international classification of diseases and mental disorders that include technology addiction. Experts do acknowledge though that there is a distinction between responsible technology usage and misuse that is connected to psychological, physical, and social issues. Numerous consequences of overuse include anxiety, depression, and a potential reduction of self-confidence and emotional stability. Furthermore, children who are dependent on these devices are frequently stressed, unable to unwind, and sometimes sleep-deprived. The constant use of devices rather than face-to-face conversations restricts the development of social skills. Besides, excessive screen time can lead to headaches, eyestrain, discomfort, and blurred vision. There is also the fact that a significant amount of screen time might cause a child to become physically unfit and suffer musculoskeletal issues, leading to an inactive lifestyle. 

Symptoms of device overuse in children are as follows: being constantly attached to a screen, getting upset whenever there is no access to a device, not showing interest in other activities, being overly invested in the devices, and being unaware of the surroundings. According to the Melbourne Child Psychology & School Psychology Services, there are a few ways to control overuse. Firstly, you can replace the device used with other enjoyable activities (drawing, going outside, playing board games, etc.). Other techniques, such as a gradual reduction of screen time instead of abrupt stopping and setting boundaries for a daily period of use aid in reducing the impacts of technology on kids. 

It is important to acknowledge that children need to grow and explore the world on their own; that is how we learn. Implementing a tablet to distract them may be efficient short-term, but  will affect the child’s long-term development. In reality, this is not an IPad Kid phenomenon, this is an IPad Parent problem. This overuse has been perpetuated by parents, but they have the power to reduce it.



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