I just heard two stories on the radio that cause me to wonder whether technology can take credit for actually making kids healthier. If so, could it also help reduce teen pregnancy, teen vandalism, and other innapropriate activities? Interesting thought...
One recently-released study indicates that kids as young as 2 years old are spending more time online - and the number is growing. The other story indicated that smoking is down among young people (I couldn't find that link, but here is a similar story from a few months ago indicating that marijuana smoking is down by double-digits among teens).
In the report on the decline in pot smoking, they surmise that the decline is due to the fact that kids are not going out at night as much as they used to - and they guess that this is because kids are engaged in on-line activities. So, playing online games and participating in social networks may actually have played a part in reducing smoking among teens. Very cool.
I have blogged in the past about the lack of "natural bounds" when participating in digital activities - that is, kids spend more time online because their bodies don't get tired like they would if they were playing outside, or they don't recognize the time passing like they would if they were outside and the sun went down, etc. Now there is actually scientific evidence that participating in digital activies may actually have a positive "natural bounds" effect - allowing kids to participate in online activities instead of going out at night may keep them more healthy.
Of course, we still need to ensure they are using technology safely - there are plenty of things they can get involved in online that would be just as detrimental to their health as smoking. But the good news is that we have much more control over the technology in our home than we do once our kids leave the house to "hang out" with their friends. Of course, we don't want to swing the pendulum too far to the other side either - kids need peer interaction, and they need some freedom to associate with their friends in the real world.
The bottom line is that we, as parents, should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. No need to unplug the cord and keep our kids away from technology - just be sure we help them understand how to use technology responsibly - and it may just help us reduce some of the difficulties of the "old days" when kids would just hang around outside with their friends in the real world - and would quickly find ways to get into trouble.