Life Wellbeing Idiot Box: the harmful side of children’s tech obsession

Idiot Box: the harmful side of children’s tech obsession

Donna Stevens/ IMP Features
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“Ugly and dumb.” “Children of the living dead.”

You don’t often hear people describe toddlers this way, yet that’s what people have said about the children watching television whom artist Donna Stevens photographed in her photo series Idiot Box.

“People have reacted in different ways,” Ms Stevens tells The New Daily.

“Some said, ‘Oh yeah, my kid looks like that watching TV’, and I wanted to do this because we rarely see photos of children not looking idyllic.”

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The idea for the New York-based Australian’s intimate images of gawking kids came when she took the first test shot of her son and noticed the expression staring back at her.

“I’m certainly not an authority on this subject, however the debate over whether or not exposing kids to technology continues and that it is something we should all be discussing.”
The artist wanted to capture children in a way they’re rarely presented. Photo: Donna Stevens/IMP Features

A 2013 study into Australian children younger than five says kids spend on average eight hours a week watching television, compared with four hours of reading.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in 2012 that Aussie children spend an average of 15 hours per fortnight looking at screens outside of school time. This includes time spent in front of television programming, DVDs, video games and computers.
Aussie kids watch screens almost double the time they spend reading. Photo: Donna Stevens/IMP Features

How much screen time is too much?

“A healthy family lifestyle includes limits on screen time,” executive director of Dr Julie Green tells The New Daily.

“Children under two should steer clear of the screen altogether and children aged 2-5 should have no more than one hour per day,” she says.

“Children learn and grow best through interacting with real people, not people on a screen. Their main way of learning and developing is through play.

“TV distracts infants and toddlers from play that’s interactive, and that might be of more developmental benefit.”
People have told the artist their children wear similar expressions while watching TV. Photo: Donna Stevens/IMP Features

“A balance of indoor and outdoor play is part of a child’s healthy development.” Dr Green says.

For parents who decide to let their young children watch a small amount of TV, Dr Green offered the following advice:

1. Watching alongside them and talking about what they are seeing

2. Choosing some favourite suitable programs (look for simple and slow moving images)

3. Turning off the TV when the program is over

Check out the Idiot Box series and Ms Stevens’ other work here. Or follow her on Instagram.
The series aims to explore the “dark side” of our technology obsession. Photo: Donna Stevens/ IMP Features
Ms Stevens hopes to have her work exhibited in New York. Photo: Donna Stevens/ IMP Features

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