Whenever I’m home from school for even a short period of time, I always get my nails done with my mom…and sometimes my grandma if she’s around. It’s a way for us to hang out when I’m in town, rather than just sitting around at home for the week or long weekend, and we spend most of the time talking to each other.

Over spring break, the tradition continued. I noticed something out of the corner of my eye at the nail salon. There was a younger girl, maybe nine or ten, getting a pedicure with her mom. It reminded me a lot of what my mom and I have been doing since I was a kid. Except the girl was staring at a sparkling pink iPad.

The “iPad Kid” epidemic is something that has been joked about online for a while now, but it’s recently picked up traction in the last few years, notably since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One day, my housemate saw her god-daughter spot a butterfly fluttering outside the window. Her tiny toddler hand reached out, and her thumb and forefinger made a sort of pincer movement. At first my housemate was baffled, but then she realized. Her god-daughter was trying to zoom in on the butterfly.

Eloise Hendy

During the pandemic, a majority of children were not only stuck behind a screen for school, but also at home as many parents  gave their young children iPads in an effort to keep them entertained indoors.

It’s difficult for me to critique that decision since I am not a parent, and I’m sure that it must have been frustrating to be trapped inside with toddlers for almost a year. But every time I see a child with their face stuck in an iPad at a restaurant, I can’t help but think about the emotional consequences of giving technology to kids at such a young age. 

The National Library of Medicine conducted one study that found a correlation between screen time and behavioral issues. The study found that “excessive screen time was positively associated with behavioral and conduct problems, developmental delay, speech disorder, learning disability, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and there were significant dose-response relationships.”

After spending six summers at a summer camp as a counselor, three of them post-COVID-19, I have seen very obvious signs of social and emotional developmental delay in the children with whom I work, especially since I work with the youngest age group.

Can some of this be blamed simply on the fact that these kids did not spend their first years of schooling in person and learning how to socialize? Sure. But part of it is absolutely from excessive technology use. 

The kids I work with are four to six years old. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve picked up on them talking to each other about what kind of phones they have, along with different YouTube videos that they plan on watching when they get home from camp. 

I was once having a behavioral issue with a child and asked, as we often do, “How would your parents help you right now?” The answer I got was: “My mom would give me her phone.”

To address behavioral issues with more screen time is just feeding into the issue at hand. I find that many adults complain about teens’ screen time usage, but something about current teens and their tech use that differs from children is that a majority of us didn’t get phones until we were teenagers. 

Feeding a child technology while their brain is still developing teaches them that the world revolves around devices. Eloise Hendy wrote a VICE article about her experience with a neighbor.

“One day, my housemate saw her god-daughter spot a butterfly fluttering outside the window. Her tiny toddler hand reached out, and her thumb and forefinger made a sort of pincer movement. At first my housemate was baffled, but then she realized. Her god-daughter was trying to zoom in on the butterfly.”

As Hendy notes, children this age can barely feed themselves yet have somehow mastered the basics of technology use. Devices are coming before basic necessities. How are people not seeing the problem with this?

Frankly, I’m scared for the future generations. Gen-Z certainly has a technology problem that needs to be addressed…but at least we knew how to read before we knew how to zoom in.

By Liz Morin

English (Creative Writing) and Digital Journalism || Politics Minor

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