Opinion: Toddlers With Tablets


Free use image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Generation Alpha is the age group that follows Gen Z (born 1997-2009), the generation that I believe had the last screen formative childhood years. So what makes Gen Alpha’s childhood different from Gen Z’s? While early 2000’s kids were looking up at the world around them from their strollers, the kids of the 2010’s have their faces buried in their parents’ devices. While Gen Z ran around on playgrounds and made blanket forts with friends, Gen Alpha watches TV and plays video games. 

I have observed this with little cousins who can’t seem to find the volume while listening to YouTube or the babies in strollers who get rewarded with screen time for good behavior. The in-fashion parenting method is now tablets. 

This is not to say that Gen Z does not also have a huge screen problem. The difference is that their early childhood years were not spent with blue light flashing into their eyes at all hours. As a member of Gen Z, I can say that I went to my local park every day as a child until the sunset and my only screen time was watching a few episodes of Spongebob here and there, which I’m positive did nothing but enlighten me. 

However, screens can be very useful in childhood development; there is actually a video game that has been FDA approved as a non-standalone treatment for children with ADHD. This particular use of screen time isn’t the issue — it’s the hours on end of videos and playing mindless games that limit these toddlers’ real-world experiences and social interactions. 

Gen Alpha kids aren’t the first digital natives, many believe that title belongs to the Millenials (people born between 1981-1996), but Millenials and Gen Z still got a tech-free and creativity-filled childhood that many children now aren’t fully experiencing. Gen Z’s parents had Blackberries or flip phones for many years and weren’t spending excessive time on technology until their children reached pre-teen and teenage years. Young members of Gen Z were constantly problem solving, creating games, and making friends on their own. 

I have had many first-hand experiences in the hours I’ve spent with Gen Alpha children. I frequently see them on their parents’ phones or a tablet of some sort. I don’t mean to be harsh against this upcoming generation, in fact, I think they will thrive and continue to make big changes in the world. However, I have pity for Gen Alpha children every time I see a parent shove a screen in their faces to make them stop crying. It seems as though parents often don’t want to deal with their children and are looking for a quick and easy solution. 

Studies find that children these days are spending, on average, 40% of their waking hours on screens. In 2014, it was reported that children under the age of two were spending over 3 hours on screens while in 1997 the number was halved. Screen time has been proven to be one of the causes of many different health concerns. There are increased levels of anxiety, sleep issues, and reduced levels of physical activity. Having children on screens at such a young age makes them grow a dependency as they learn constant screen time as a norm. About half of all children under 8 actually have some form of tablet or screen of their own. If adults seem to agree that too much screen time is negative, why are they forcing it on children at younger ages? 

I believe that it is time for parents and schools to find different ways to stimulate younger children through creative in-person games and social interaction. The older children get, the more time they will inevitably have to spend on screens. It is best that in those younger years they get to have less of that to have the most fulfilling childhood possible.