The Playdate Kids Gazette

This blog is dedicated to all of the Playdate Kids Club Members. We will offer fun to read articles, tips for parents, ideas for arts and crafts projects and more!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Do you worry about your kids being around too many electronic devices?

Should they keep it simple?

Do you wonder if it is really harmful? Check out this article from Technology News....

Children Getting Wired Early for High Tech

Christopher and Shane McGrath, teenagers from Marietta, Ga., both have iPods and cellphones. They communicate with friends via text messages, e-mails and instant messages. Their younger brother Josh, 9, has his choice of video game systems at home --- PlayStation2, Xbox , Game Cube --- and two portable Game Boys to take on the road.

Not to mention the family's computers, DVD players, TVs and all sorts of other gadgets.

Young Techies

As technology has steadily crept into the family over the years, each of the boys has adopted it earlier than his brothers. "In the period of 10 years, between the cellphones, the GameCubes, the Game Boys and everything else ... there's been a huge jump," said Chris McGrath, 46. "Today, they have all these different little high-tech gimmicks to keep them entertained."
Like the McGrath boys, most kids are adapting to technology earlier than ever before.
Children in the United States are using video games, cellphones and portable music players by age 7 --- about six months earlier than just a year ago, according to a recent online survey of 3,540 parents.

On average, kids use televisions by age 4, desktop computers and video game systems by about age 6, and cellphones and portable digital media players by around age 9, according to the survey.

That's good news for the electronics industry, but is it healthy for kids? A growing number of experts are beginning to wonder.

"There is enough evidence out there to say that if you overuse any of these technologies, you're going to have problems," said Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Health Risk?

Claims of electronics-related health problems in kids are growing.

In England last month, an 8-year-old girl was diagnosed with repetitive strain injury from sending too many cellphone text messages. According to published reports, the chiropractor treating her said he sees similar injuries about twice a month in kids who overuse cellphones and video game systems.

In Louisiana, an iPod user sued Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL) in February, claiming the popular portable music player could cause users to lose their hearing. Regulators in France have already forced Apple to turn down the volume on iPods sold there.

In a Boston University study several years ago, 40 percent of sixth-graders who regularly used computers complained of muscular-skeletal disorders. A study in Australia found that 60 percent of computer users aged 10 to 17 years had similar complaints.

"Part of the key to all of this is moderation," said Karen Jacobs, a Boston University occupational therapy professor who led the survey of parents conducted by Port Washington, N.Y.-based research company NPD Group. "The excessive, continuous use of anything isn't good."

In England, 8-year-old Isabelle Taylor estimated she sent 30 text messages a day to her friends before she noticed the pain in her wrists that spread to her fingers and arms.

Her mother said she tried to get her to stop, but it didn't work.

"She got the phone when she was 6, and she's constantly on it," Jane Taylor told the London Daily Mail. "I tried to take it off her, but she started sneaking it to school."
Maintaining Control Isabelle, who's now limited to cellphone use 30 minutes before and after school, has no plans to quit texting her friends, however.

"I'm not going to stop," she told the Daily Mail. "Me and all my friends talk to each other with texts, so I can't not text them."
In Marietta, Chris McGrath knows how tough it can be to get his sons to cut down on their tech time. He recently had to take the cellphone away from Shane, 13, because he used it to send text messages while in class. And soon after Christopher, 15, got a cellphone with text messaging service, his father found out on a monthly bill just how many messages someone could send.
"He sent 250 text messages in something like a week's period," said McGrath. "I couldn't believe he could even do that." McGrath, like most parents, said he and wife Jackie don't worry too much about health problems associated with such technology. They try to make sure their kids get enough exercise and try to limit their time with video games and other devices.
Ergonomics experts advise kids to take "stretch breaks" every 15 to 30 minutes when playing video games or using computers, to use good posture and position their hands correctly, and generally limit their playing time.

Health problems could crop up when kids get older.

"If you're looking at a kid playing Nintendo six hours a day, they might not have a problem today or tomorrow or even in a year's time," said Cornell's Hedge. "But five or six years or more when they enter the work force, they'll probably be more prone to getting injured more easily."
Electronics Makers React Hedge said that's because kids can develop poor habits, such as bad posture, easily. Also, just like football injuries or twisted knees from running, injuries to muscles and fingers can resurface years later when kids grow up and are required to use computers or other electronics equipment every day. Some electronics companies are taking notice of the health concerns that come with their products. In reaction to the Louisiana suit and to complaints by other users, Apple in March started offering free software that limits the volume of its newest iPods. With its newest game controllers, Nintendo is making a change aimed in part at curing the painful problem some frequent players call "Nintendo thumb." The controller for its forthcoming Wii console has a built-in motion sensor designed in part to limit repetitive movements like button-pushing. Sony's (NYSE: SNE) soon-to-be-released PlayStation 3 has a similar controller.

Xbox game system maker Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) provides a "Healthy Gaming Guide'' that suggests users take frequent breaks, use good posture and work the buttons with a light touch.
The guide also comes with an ominous warning aimed at covering Microsoft legally: "Use of game controllers, keyboards, mice or other electronic input devices may be linked to serious injuries or disorders." The warning goes on to advise users to "promptly see a qualified health professional" if they develop persistent problems such as pain in the hands, arms and shoulders.
Jennifer Boone, spokeswoman for the Consumer Electronics Association in Arlington, Va., said the industry is taking a proactive approach to the healthy use of its products. She pointed to a consumer campaign the industry trade group launched to encourage people to limit the volume on earphones on music players.

"We support the smart use of electronics," Boone said. "You need to use them wisely. You need to limit the time you spend text messaging or gaming."

Role Model Influence

At the Washington-based Entertainment Software Association, which represents video game companies, President Doug Lowenstein said in a statement that players and their parents have to take personal responsibility not to devote too much time to playing video games.
Kids, though, are inundated with commercials and other marketing for gadgets. Often, parents buy them the stuff they want.

In the NPD Group survey, about 41 percent of children between 4 and 14 years old owned their own video game system. About 14 percent had their own cellphones, portable DVD players and desktop computers, according to responses from their parents.

NPD analyst Anita Frazier said kids are probably plugging into to gadgets at an earlier age because of both access and exposure to them. "As they become more prevalent in the household, and as kids increasingly see their role models [parents, older siblings] using these products, they naturally will want to try them themselves," she said in an e-mail interview.
McGrath said he is astonished at how connected kids are today compared with just a decade ago.
"In the period of 10 years, between the cellphones, the GameCubes, the Game Boys and everything else ... there's been a huge jump," he said. "Today, they have all these different little high-tech gimmicks to keep them entertained."

© 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. All rights reserved.© 2006 ECT News Network. All rights reserved.

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