Mobile Devices = New Social Impairment?

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by g_walter

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by g_walter

This post is written with my parent hat on. It is not my intention to judge, but to question how the quick surge and availability of mobile devices will impact social development of our kids when we let them fixate on a device instead of engage in social gatherings.

When my children were young, most of their peers had hand held devices (most likely DS’s) ……I chose not to put these devices in their hands.

As smart phones emerged, I saw adults hand these over to their children to play games and watch videos…..I chose to keep mine in my bag.

Now I see iPads, tablets and smart phones in kids hands whenever I am in a restaurant, supermarket, shopping centre, even the playground and I wonder; with every child face down at a screen, are we constructing a cohort of socially impaired kids? Are we reducing the opportunities to build social etiquitte, to learn how to engage with each other?  Is it just easier to give our kids devices to keep them quiet and not think about what pattern/deficit this creates?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my technology,  I love my children using technology. I love that they create, construct, play and problem solve in digital. My kids both have blogs, are Minecraft enthusiasts, are avid fan fiction writers and play multiple other games on computers and iPads. What I do hope, is that by having a few expectations around when and where they use mobile devices, I provide opportunities to develop skills that will help them build relationships and social skills in their physical world.

I would love other perspectives on this, so go ahead, comment and share your thoughts!


  1. Bob Thiele

    Absolutely agree, Rhoni. We have to have “No Electronics” times every day as my kids are such avid users of their iPads and iPod touches. Even when they are allowed to use them we have to tipi late that it is learning apps or reading only. It is too easy for them to Minecraft or watch Youtube for hours.
    I am also concerned at the number of apps they go to in such a short time. Little “stickability”.

    Lots of benefits though for their learning. Sometimes it is the only way we can get a sleep in or a little peace and quiet.

    • rhonimcfarlane

      Thanks for chiming in Bob. I think the screen time issue has been around since TV first took front and centre in the home. I just think now it is exacerbated with everything being mobile. Parenting is by no means an easy job and when I spend time with my friend with her four kids at “witching hour” and we are trying to have a conversation, I get why she hands her kid the iPad!

  2. fionamgray

    As a mum of a three and a half year old, I often allow my son to “play” with my ipad or iphone. My husband also works away and so there are numerous times when letting the idevice slide into the hand of the three year old does wonders for the relaxation of my own wellbeing.
    I think that today it is too hard to not let kids play with these devices and I know that as a parent I try to limit the amount of time he spends playing on it. I also try to provide him with a bunch of educational games that he can play (to learn) in addition to those apps that I find myself playing on a regular basis.

    • rhonimcfarlane

      Fiona, you are a wonderful mum and do so much for your young man on your own plus work full-time which is admirable. I would never suggest that kids don’t get iPads or tablets into their little hands, that would be equivalent to our grandparents not allowing our parents to draw with a ballpoint! Tech is part of our lives and our children will only know screens as interactive and responsive. My concern is founded with children and parents allowing kids to opt out of social interaction in preference for a screen, when there is a playmate beside them. Just like the skills and expertise involved with mastering games and apps, being a good friend, playing nicely with others and developing empathy takes practice and guidance. If we don’t spend time establishing these skills, there will be a deficit. Thanks for jumping on!

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