Psychosocial Development and Technology Use (Part 2)
In the previous blog we discussed Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development and how technology use might interfere with that development. Psychosocial theory presupposes that as we mature from infancy to adulthood we transition through stages of social development that provide us with conflict or challenges. As we successfully manage challenges or conflict we obtain a psychological skill or value that helps us tackle the next psychosocial challenge. These skills build upon each other and, according to Erikson, if we fail to develop a skill we will experience difficulties in those areas of life. In this blog we will discuss Stage 2 and how technology interferes with the developmental progress of two to three-year-old children.
|1||Birth to 18 months||Trust vs. Mistrust||Hope|
|2||2 – 3 years||Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt||Will|
|3||3 – 5 years||Initiative vs. Guilt||Purpose|
|4||5 – 11 years||Industry vs. Inferiority||Competence|
|5||Adolescence||Identity vs. Confusion||Fidelity|
|6||Early Adulthood||Intimacy vs. Isolation||Love|
|7||Middle Age||Generativity vs. Stagnation||Care|
|8||Old Age||Integrity vs. Despair||Wisdom|
Stage 2: Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt (2 – 3 years)
During the second stage of psychosocial development, children develop and master a greater sense of personal control. Children in this age range are just beginning to gain a small degree of independence. They want to and can perform some basic activities on their own and make simple decisions based on their preferences. Children in this age range begin to walk away from their caregivers, put on some of their own clothing, use the toilet, and feed themselves. They can make basic decisions on what they want to color, which toys they prefer, and what they want to eat.
Parents are critical at this stage of development because if they allow children to make choices and gain some control of their actions, they can help children develop a sense of autonomy. For example, parents should permit their children to try to put on their own shirts or tie their own shoes until their child asks for assistance. This permits children to become more independent while also protecting them from constant failure. Parents must be patient to let their children perform these difficult tasks (self-control) without criticizing them for failing or making mistakes (loss of self esteem).
If children are successful in gaining this sense of autonomy then they will complete this stage feeling secure and confident about their ability to survive in the world. The psychological skill or value that a child gains when successfully passing through this stage is will. Will is the belief that children can act with reasonable intention. If a child is criticized, overly controlled, or not given the opportunity to exercise their independence, then they begin to feel inadequate in their ability to survive. Failure at this stage may lead a child to become overly dependent upon others, lack self-esteem, or have a sense of inadequacy (shame) and self-doubt about their own abilities.
The Technology Wellness Center (TWC) believes there are two ways in which technology impacts this stage of development. First, as parents become busy in their careers, personal life and scheduling events for their children, they have a tendency to rush through the small and seemingly insignificant tasks that take too much time. For example, the family is running late so rather than permitting the three year old to try to tie his shoes a parent opts to quickly do it for him. During the mad rush of the morning routine the youngest is quickly dressed by dad so that everyone can get to daycare, school, and work without being grossly late. Part of this busyness in our lives is due to technology use by parents for work or play. Parents frequently check work or personal emails, conduct calls from their cell phones while rushing around in the morning and message co-workers or friends for the day’s plans. All of this technology use sucks valuable time that we could spend our children. Children need us to slow down, to be patient, and to let them try and achieve accomplishments on their own. Doing so sets the stage for children to successfully pass through Stage 2.
Second, we are seeing children who are regularly provided with cell phones, tablets, or other gaming devices as a form of entertainment or distraction at this early age. As a result, they are not exploring the real world around them. They are not learning how to become independent or learning from their mistakes and successes through exploration and experience.. Successful play via a digital device DOES NOT replace real life experiences that help children successfully pass through this stage. If children miss these real life experiences they may later suffer from self-doubt about their own abilities and might become too dependent on their caregivers.
Tips for Stage 2 children (Ages 2 – 3):
- Do not give your child electronic devices for play.
- Permit your child to dress him or herself.
- Permit your child to pick from one or two food choices.
- Permit your child to work on tying his or her own shoes.
- Permit your child to pick an activity for afternoon play.
- Permit your child to feed him or herself.
- Do not criticize your child for toilet training accidents.
- Do not criticize your child for making mistakes while trying to complete a new and difficult task.
- Put down your technology and be mindful when your child is attempting a new task such as tying shoes, putting on a shirt, etc.