Are tech-savvy children better off?

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Suzanne Martin remembers growing up before technology took over.

"We didn't have cell phones. We didn't have internet. We didn't have all those things," Martin said. "When we wanted to talk to people and communicate, we'd go door to door and communicate with them to the face."

Now she's watching her two children live in a different environment, where texting and surfing the internet seem to be taking the place of traditional communication and entertainment.  She's not completely happy with the change.

"It's just way blown out of proportion now," Martin said. "That generation is not as healthy."

It's not just a generation gap in this family. Her sons, even her 12-year-old, think that some of their friends spend too much free time staring at phones or computer screens.

"They email their friends and talk to them and stuff, but I don't think that's fun," said Jean Taylor Martin. "I'd like to talk to them and go play with them."

Jean Taylor said even his middle school is full of students with cell phones and profiles on social networking websites.  He has a cell phone but only uses it for emergencies.

"I think they do it too much," said his older brother Jacques Martin about his tech-savvy friends.  "I mean sometimes, you know, they go overboard with it."

Dr. Bruce Dennings says the technology phenomenon could be a problem if kids spend too much time using text-only communication. He said he doesn't think the technology itself is a problem, but it could take time away from kids' social skill development.

"It's still not the same thing as looking at somebody else's face and reading the expressions," Dennings said. "If you're doing a lot of communication that way and not doing it in the face to face way, you aren't learning the skills you need to learn to be able to read other people."

Dennings says the technology is here to stay. He says not to be afraid of the change but, instead try to use high-tech communication methods in moderation.

"It's like any tool. If you use it wisely, it will really help. If you abuse it, it could hurt you," Dennings said.

Experts recommend that children only spend two or three hours each day using multi-media entertainment.  That includes cell phones, computers, televisions, and video games.