Sue Hubbard, M.D.

In an effort to keep up with my tech-savvy patients and their parents, I read a study from a well-known software maker that confirmed something we all know: Our kids are extremely wired.

The company solicited 2,200 mothers to answer a survey looking at skills their children have, such as riding a bike or tying their shoes, as well as those very important early childhood skills such as using an iPad or Smartphone. It turned out 21 percent of 4- and 5-five-year olds knew how to use a Smartphone or iPad application, while only 14 percent of those same kids could tie their shoes!

For children 2-to-5-years old, 69 percent could operate a computer mouse, 58 percent could play a computer game, but only 52 percent knew how to ride a bike. Seems incredible to me that more kids have computers than bicycles. Twenty-five percent of 2-to-5-year-olds could open a Web browser, yet only 20 percent knew how to swim. Technology is definitely changing the world but is it all beneficial?

The company's CEO commissioned the survey to show how young children are interacting with technology. He emphasized that parents need to be educating their young children about the online world and need to be promoting Internet/online safety at very young ages. It used to be, "When do I have the sex talk?" Now, it's, "How soon do I need to talk about online safety and technology?"

The most disturbing aspect of this study is that it suggests our children are way too wired and may be missing out on simple, yet important life skills.

I myself have seen many a 2-year-old open their parent's iPad and turn on a movie while in the exam room. They can recognize different icons and switch between applications but are not yet capable of talking in complete sentences! Some of these children are the same ones who at age 2, are not yet putting themselves to sleep at night, cannot sleep through the night and still have a bottle or pacifier.

Some parents are convinced that their child may not be capable of mastering these normal developmental milestones, while at the same time are thrilled about their child's computer skills. This seems a little mixed up to me. Priorities sometimes get confused.

Technology is important and will continue to be so, but what if the computer is "down" and you need to write a story with pencil and paper, or draw a picture without the benefit of a computer screen? There are certainly many life skills to be mastered, like riding a bike, pumping a swing and playing catch.

The race to teach kids technology to help them compete in our constantly "wired" world may be detrimental to their physical and emotional health. All parents need to remember to "turn off the technology" and get back to basics. There is time for both.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show.


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