The rise of smartphones and other digital devices has dramatically changed the way we live our lives. We use them for communication, entertainment, and even education.
While these devices can be incredibly useful, there is growing concern about their impact on children’s cognitive development. In this blog post, we will explore the potential impact of smartphones on children’s cognitive development.
Before understanding the interrelationship between smartphones and a child’s cognitive development, it is important to know the basic meaning of cognitive development.
What is Cognitive Development?
Cognitive development means the ability to think and understand the reasoning behind circumstances. This psychological characteristic is best developed in the early years (mostly 6 to 12 years) of childhood to foster basic intelligence.
Basic intelligence skills include basic problem-solving skills, resolving dispositions and logically processing information.
Pros of a Smartphone
Today, smartphones are used for various purposes and are not limited to providing just one or two services like before. It can be used as a phonebook, also for viewing the calendar, creating task sheets, noting reminders, making brisk calculations, navigating from one place to another, gaming and connecting to people around the world with the help of the internet or otherwise.
The benefits are infinite. So much so that the device just acts like one’s personal assistant. Thus, with their multiple features, smartphones have gained excessive control over humans and have become an addiction in recent times.
Relating Smartphone usage to Cognitive Development
Multiple studies showed that children, in particular, had a detrimental effect on their mental and physical health because of extravagant smartphone usage. Because of this, one must have often heard elders say that young children become disabled without mobile phones – which is so true!
According to the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, it has been inferred that if children’s screen time is more than required, then it can adversely hamper a child’s cognitive development.
It directly affects a child’s:
- Brain development
- Psychological levels
- Sleep cycles
- Thinking patterns
- Lack of focus
- Behavioral problems
- Aggression levels
Once a child is addicted to the smartphone, then its ease of use and attractive features overpower a child’s routine and take up all their time, killing the inevitability of their brain development.
Additionally, a child tends to develop bad sleeping cycles that are identified by the human body, which resultantly terminates the production of the ‘melatonin hormone’ that promotes sleep.
A study journal by the Association for Consumer Research reported that the cognitive functioning of a child is affected even when a mobile phone is nearby, or within a child’s reach. Such are the hazardous effects of a smartphone.
In addition to the above, it has been surveyed that excessive usage of the device makes a child feel isolated in the real world. It plays a negative role in impacting a child’s thinking abilities and conversational skills.
Considering the socio-psychological traits that a child usually develops in the early years, a child who often spends time on screen listens variably less, pays less attention and falls out of words while communicating socially.
Because of this, children lack being good at face-to-face interactions and resultantly fail to interpret non-verbal cues and gestures.
Let us now further elaborate on the drawbacks a smartphone has on the cognitive development of children.
How do smartphones adversely affect the cognitive development of children?
From the above information, we have deciphered how smartphones negatively impact the brain development and cognitive skills of children.
Neuroscience believes that the early years of a child’s growth are the most crucial years of cognitive development. Neuroscience also addresses the challenges faced by a child during cognitive functioning which might make the brain vulnerable to mental health diseases.
Science has successfully recognized the four essentials of cognitive development which are:
It has been assessed that excessive use of smartphones negatively impacts the above four essential characteristics of the cognitive development of a child.
The adversity of Smartphones on Different Age Groups
Considering the different age groups in children, the negative impact of excessive smartphone usage is immense. Let us study them briefly in the below exhaustive list:
- Babies and Toddlers (1yrs to 3yrs)
Children of this age group are very sensitive. Their brain development is in the initial stages and their eyesight is too vulnerable to adapt to the blue rays of the screen.
As there are multiple stages of self-identification in the early years of learning, toddlers tend to lose the ability to identify themselves accurately when they often view themselves in a selfie camera with filters.
Therefore, toddlers using applications that use filters to exaggerate their appearances, look more beautiful and hide flaws, tend to develop ‘AR filter-induce body dysmorphia’.
- Elementary aged (3yrs to 12yrs)
The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized the significance of minimizing screen time because it encourages a sedentary lifestyle. This age group must rather engage in physical activities for their cognitive development.
Cons of a Smartphone Affecting Cognitive Development in Children
After the above analysis on how a smartphone affects a child’s cognitive skills, let us further discuss point to point how smartphones have remarkably been a big distraction to children in today’s times.
- Decreased learning ability – The rate at which a child perceives new situations and tries to grasp conclusions from them decreases, if the child is not involved in the real surroundings, but is rather more focused on the virtual displays. Skills that are particularly needed for math and science are impacted. The responsiveness to experiences decreases due to the excessive use of smartphones at an early age.
Children feel more anxious, insecure and callous when they are not handed over smartphones. The addiction is such that it leads to acute depression and anxiety in them.
A child’s mind isn’t active enough to grasp their surroundings, instead is closed-ended to limit their learning capabilities.
- Impact on memory – Let us talk about something scientific now. When a child is not bound by the time limit to which he or she shall be using a smartphone, then this habit of seeing the screen for too long can also impair a child’s vision. The blue light and radiation of smartphones, not only impact a child’s vision, but also brain development. Compromising on the integrity of grasping new information will impair the cognitive function of a child’s brain and debilitate dopamine function.
Although there are many STEM apps available on the smartphone that can also help students, excessive use of smartphones significantly deteriorates brain cells and weakens the memory of a child. A child is not able to retain data for a longer period.
They tend to become more adamant by nature and not adhere to their elders. A child’s brain, when addicted to the use of smartphones, reflects lesser adaptability and flexibility. They stop putting much effort into learning new skills and acclimating abilities.
- Affects communication skills – Listening, speaking and language learning skills are diminishing the cognitive development rate of children. Smartphones are a barrier to effective communication as their socio-emotional intelligence is affected.
Children are not able to express their thoughts effectively and aren’t able to understand the emotions of others nicely. Additionally, the in-person communication benefits are not retrieved by them, such as body language, facial expressions and gesticulations. This type of social isolation is not good for a child in his early years of cognitive development.
Children age 8 years and above, who use social media applications such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc are open to cyberbullying and malicious cyber fraud. Exposure to such situations leads to disturbance in academics and personal relationships.
Also, access to unsuitable content spoils a child’s language and memorizes bad words and approaches to communication.
- Lesser reasoning ability – For instance, a child observes the sound difference in how a spoon bangs on the table, on a pot and the floor. It is through such simple yet scientific situations, a child starts understanding the cause-and-effect relationship between things. But, if a child is glued to the screen most of the time, then it is nearly impossible to develop such logical reasoning. Brain development is moreover static than dynamic as it is more involved in the virtual world than what is happening in the actual world. It is really important for children especially to do time management.
Ever heard of the term ‘digital amnesia’? It is explained as the situation when a child loses track of a set of information, which they had relied on their smartphones for remembering. It has a detrimental effect on the brain as it hurts the figural memory.
Figural memory means the memory which helps identify forms and figures effectively. So, it can be inferred at last that more use of smartphones reflects on a child’s short-term and long-term memory.
- Lower grades – All the above points discussed above result in lower grades at school. To elaborate on it, it can be stated that because of the low concentration power of those children who use too many mobile phones, their school grades drop to a great level. Their minds are clueless most of the time. This gives rise to lower self-confidence and less self-awareness to focus towards a growth mindset.
It has been surveyed and concluded that with enhanced cognitive abilities, the academic performance of a child accelerates. The intermediary variables such as psychological health and personality development are also directly proportional to a child’s cognitive development. Prediction of fairer academic scores with good cognitive abilities.
To conclude, it is important to limit a child’s screen time as with more screen time, children are susceptible to the above risks. To eliminate the risks of barring cognitive development via excessive smartphone usage, parents, teachers and caregivers must educate themselves on how to keep children actively engaged in other activities.
Restricting the use of smartphones could facilitate logical thinking, reasoning and more retention abilities.
Jessica Robinson loves to write interesting and knowledgeable blogs regarding business management, education and life to satiate the curiosity of her lovely readers. Currently, she is serving as a content manager at the ‘Speaking Polymath’. Every piece of content that she writes demonstrates her immense love and passion for her profession.
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