Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Electronics Media - A Necessary Evil In Child Development

Child development is the study of mechanisms that operate during the biological and psychological process of growth of a child to adolescence, from dependency to increasing autonomy. Milestones are the major focus of child development stages. Developmental disability is a term used to describe life long disabilities attributed to mental or physical or both combination of mental and physical impairments. This use of term is synonymous with the use of term learning disability, intellectual disability or cognitive disability.
Many theories have been put forward on child development. The basic idea behind them is that, children learn in stages. Each stage can have lasting effects on adult personality. Many Children develop defence mechanisms against unpleasant ideas or threats. Unpleasant childhood experiences could leave lasting scars, which would affect how that person would react to new situations and events. One of the most famous theories about how a child's mind develops was put forward by Swiss psychologist, Jean Paiget. The central concept of Paiget's theory is the schema. A schema is a kind of cognitive, or 'mental' structure, which the child uses as it interacts with the outside world. A schema contains all the ideas, memories and information about a particular object that a child associates with that object. Once the schema is developed, it will be applied to other situations if at all possible. Many people think that intelligence is inherited, but this could be environmental too. So we can conclude easily that the later stages of growing up are not as important, as the foundations have already been laid by the child's experience at a very early age.
In the 21st century Television, Computers, Mobiles, Electronic games are among the many advances and they represent a mixed blessing for developing children and their parents. New interactive digital media have become an integral part of children’s lives. The electronics media industries are multimillion dollar industries and growing day by day. The electronics market in India, at US$ 11.5 billion in 2004, will be the fastest-growing electronics market worldwide over the next several years. This market is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23% by 2010 to reach US$ 40 billion, yet there is little research substantiating the educational claims of many of these products. Parents take their decisions based on marketing assertions or advertisements, not third-party research, and the little research that does exist about the effects of electronic media on children is limited to television.

Electronics media is source of information in our present day lives but this information can be right or wrong and also can contain good or bad content and we are free to see and choose which one is right and which one is wrong. But what about Children? They are in different developing stages, so can hardly differentiate between wrong and right or good and bad.

Children And Television -
The most ubiquitous source of exposure to violence for children in the new era is Television. The average child of 2-5 years of age watches 1-2 hour of television a day. Many children are growing up in homes where the TV is an ever-present companion. Many children live in homes where the TV is left on at least half the time or more, even if no one is watching, and some live in homes where the TV is on always or most of the time. According to the study, children who have a TV in their bedroom or who live in heavy TV households spend significantly more time watching than other children do, and less time reading or playing outside. Background media (media not intended for children) could also impact infants and toddlers by distracting the child from play or other activities, by inhibiting the child's inner monologue, by enhancing attention to play or other activities, or by hindering parent/child interactions. Research with older children has found that effects of foreground media (media intended for children) depend on the content (e.g., viewing aggressive television leads to aggressive behavior and viewing educational content leads to positive educational outcomes). For infants and toddlers, foreground media may displace other activities, have negative effects no matter what the content, or have positive or negative effects depending on the content.
Approximately 3500 studies have examined the association between media violence and violent behavior, all but 18 have shown a positive relationship. Although exposure to media violence can not be equated to exposure to real life violence but many studies confirm that media violence desensitizes children to the meaning and impact of violent behavior.
A study which was conducted in America confirmed that in the case of destruction of world Trade Towers among children whose parents did not try to restrict television viewing, there was an association between the numbers of hours of television viewing and the numbers of reported stress symptoms. Violence affects children psychologically and behaviorally. It may influence how they view the world and their place in it. Children can come to see the world as a dangerous and unpredictable place. This fear may thwart their exploration of the environment, which is essential to learning in childhood. High exposure to electronic media in children correlates with poorer performance in school, symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Children And Computer Use-
Present century is the century of the information technologies and computers are the necessities of today. They are becoming the part of our daily lives. To understand computers, a child is required to know how to use them and child is allowed to use the computer at an early age, so that he or she is able to develop his or her computer skills faster. But, in exposing children to computers in the home at an early age is right or wrong, this is a big question. There is no doubt that computers will play a major role in our lives in the near future. But there is no evidence to show that computers can increase a child's intellect, however we also can not say that they are harmful. One can not deny the role of school education in the development of child because no machine can replace the inspiration given by a teacher. Computers could be used as an aid at home to complement school education.
Some Doctors and Pediatricians advise that computers don't belong in early childhood and elementary school settings. Computers can damage the health as well as intellectual and social development of young children. Children need stronger bonds with their parents, yet powerful technologies are distracting children and adults from each other. It also argued that children learn through interactions and play, and by interacting with nature, and computers displace these normal learning experiences. Socialization and values are critical components of early education and it is very hard to imagine that the computer enhances these qualities. Even a young child can suffer from physical ailments such as neck pain and back pain, due to spending too much time on the computer on unbeneficial activities.
Children who always play violent video games on their computers show significant increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, and physiological arousal, and with significant decreases in helping behavior.
Children who use internet can interact with any one in the world who is connected through the net without knowing him/her .Internet can now take the user all over the world anytime, anywhere. That means, lots of information in the form of texts, pictures, sounds, games, and videos coming to life on the screen. The internet makes possible activities such as shopping, mailing, reading books, listening to music etc. Even though this technology is wonderful, one needs to be reminded that it is all still simulation. None of it is really real, even though the user may feel as if he/she is actually interacting with society, all they are infact doing is sitting at a terminal in isolation. Internet user can interact with the world but don’t know about his/her neighbors. This is a very disturbing thought in the social development of a child.
The Internet has many dangers. There are many wholly inappropriate Web sites which can pop-up even when child is not searching for them. In fact, the number of pornographic Web pages jumped from 14 million in 1998 to 260 million in 2003. This represents a nearly 2,000 percent increase of online pornography in just five years. When children are exposed to pornography, it creates an unhealthy view of human sexuality. Pornography becomes a building block in a child's mental and emotional development. According to one study, early exposure to pornography (under the age of 14) is related to greater involvement in deviant sexual practices, particularly rape. In addition, studies suggest that exposure to pornography can prompt kids to act out sexually against younger, smaller, more vulnerable children. A U.S. study of teenagers exposed to pornography showed that "Two-thirds of males and 40 percent of females reported wanting to try out some of the behaviors they had viewed." In addition, 31 percent of males and 18 percent of females admitted doing some of the sexual things they had seen in pornographic images within a few days after exposure.
If young child is using the computer for large periods of time doing activities that are of little benefit to his or her education, this is in effect a waste of precious childhood. The computer can be extraordinarily seductive to a child.

Children And Mobile Phone Use –
Now a days mobile phones are common in use. In india there has been 25-fold increase in mobile subscriber base in a span of just five years from 2000-01 to 2005-06. During the same period, mobile-density has increased more than 23-fold from 0.35 in 2000-01 to 8.12 in 2005-06. Growth in mobile-density has been phenomenal during the last 5 years or so. Mobile-density in the country has increased more than 23-fold from 0.35 in 2000-01 to 8.12 in 2005-06.
Now research studies worldwide are showing biological effects from low-level, non-ionizing radiation similar to that used in wireless communications. So If there are currently unrecognized adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones, children are at more risk because of their developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head . Studies showed that radiation penetrated deeper into the heads of teenagers and children resulting in more exposure to potentially harmful radio waves than adults.
The German Academy of Paediatrics issued a statement- advising parents to restrict their children's use of mobile phones. They advised that all mobile phone users should keep conversations as brief as possible but that additional precautions are appropriate for children in view of "special health risks" associated with their growing bodies. Moreover, the increase in the use of mobile phones in children can increase occurrence of various disorders, often misdiagnosed in patients as psychosomatic:
1. Headaches, migraines
2. Sleeplessness, daytime sleepiness
3. Tinnitus
4. Susceptibility to infection
5. Nervous and connective tissue pains
So on a precautionary basis, parents should tell their children to limit the use of wireless phones, and that when using an earpiece, pregnant women should keep the phone away from their bellies and teenagers and children should keep it away from their developing sex organs.

So we can easily assess that Electronics media are mixed blessings to the human beings. We can not ignore the use of Television, Computers, and Mobile phones in our life but excessive use will certainly affect the mental, physical and social development of a child. Perhaps the most sobering consequence is that over exposure of Electronic media to the children may change the way that children view their future. They can use alcohol, drugs, misbehave with their parents and teachers. These children are at more risk for Psychogenic, Social, Academic, and Physical problems. So parents and teachers should control their child’s Television, Computer, Cell phone use. The common recommendations for using electronic media are –
1. Limit the use of Television, Computers, and Cell phones.
2. Don’t make the Television the focal point of house.
3. Electronics media should be out of children’s bedroom.
4. Lock the adult channels so that children can not see sexual explicit materials.
5. Always use Filter software in the computer when children surf internet.
6. Find out what sites your child likes to visit online, and ask or answer questions about these sites.
7. Look for safe site lists that can be trusted.
8. Discourage the use of violent video games.

References –
1. What Americans Need to Know about Radiation (or EMR) from Wireless Communications; Margaret Meade Glaser
2. Children and mobile phone use: Is there a health risk? The case for extra precautions; Don Maisch
3. W. L. Marshall, "The Use of Sexually Explicit Stimuli by Rapists, Child Molesters, and Nonoffenders," The Journal of Sex Research 25, no.2 (May 1988); 267-88.
4. Home Computers An Aid or Hinderance to Child Development; Burhan Ul Haque and Faisal Hussai
5. An update on the effects of playing violent video games, Journal of Adolescence, vol.27, (2004) ; 113-122
6. F. Miller, N. Varman, "The effects of psychosocial factors on Indian childrten's attitudes toward computers," Journal of Educational, Computing Research; Vol:10 Iss:3 ;1994
7. Fool's Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood ;Alliance; September 2000
11. Ghai Essential Pediatrics ; O.P.Ghai, Piyush Gupta, V.K. Paul.
12. Melson Textbook Of Pediatrics; Behrman, Kliegman, jenson.