The 21st century has ushered in an era flooded with technological advancements that build on each other seemingly on a monthly basis. Just 20 years ago, children didn’t grow up with iPhones, tablets, and other devices vying for every waking second of their attention. Fast-forward to today and almost 90 percent of children have a cell phone by age 13.
The rapid pace of this technological change has made it difficult to grasp its full effects on children. That’s why I introduced a bipartisan bill to help us understand how the dramatic changes we are living through in tech and media are affecting the physical and mental development of children, and how parents can be empowered to help their kids navigate this ever-changing environment.
The Children and Media Research Advancement (CAMRA) Act would authorize the National Institutes of Health to conduct a study on technology and media’s effects on infants, children and adolescents in core areas of cognitive, physical and socio-emotional development.
It’s important to conduct a long-term, multi-year study that examines this relationship and the impact it has on childhood development. This is where the CAMRA Act would be helpful, by spurring research that is needed to better inform parents, teachers and health care professionals on how technology affects a child’s mental health and cognitive skills.
A study from the Boston School of Medicine showed that children do not learn how to control their own emotions when parents rely on technology as a calming device. These children will often grow up with impaired visual-motor sensorimotor skill development, which are key to science and math skills. This can manifest itself when kids display more behavioral issues when they are at school trying to learn, which in turn will hinder their overall development at a critical time in their lives.
Further research should also examine the relationship between electronic device overuse and mental health. A 2018 Cigna study found that feelings of loneliness among American adults has reached “epidemic levels,” especially among young-adults. Alarming results like this beg policymakers to examine and further research what role overuse of technology plays in this national trend.
There’s no question that the use of technology for the purpose of learning in the classroom can have a positive impact on childhood education. But I think it’s also important that we conduct long-term research into the ramifications of the overuse of technology by our young people. Parents deserve the best information about how they can navigate the 21st century’s technological revolution.
Budd represents North Carolina’s 13th District and is a member of the Financial Services Committee.