Psychosocial Development and Technology Use (Part 3)
In the previous blogs we introduced Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development and how technology use might interfere with the first two stages of development.
Psychosocial theory suggests 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 a challenge or conflict, we obtain a psychological skill or value that helps us to tackle the next psychosocial challenge. These skills build upon each other and if we fail to develop a skill we will experience difficulties in a particular area.
In this blog we will examine Stage 3, (children three – five years-old) and the potential consequences of technology use during this stage of development.
|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 3: Initiative versus Guilt
Children generally begin engaging in parallel play around age one. Parallel play occurs when two children play next to each other but do not interact with each other or try to influence the other’s behavior. For example, two toddlers may sit side by side playing with their own stuffed animals, but they do not play with each other or the other’s stuffed animals. When parallel play occurs it is almost as if each child does not realize that the other child is playing next to them. Parallel play is instrumental for children because it helps with language development and is the foundation for the development of social relationships. Parallel play demonstrates a child’s desire and confidence to be around others and provides an opportunity to learn from those playing around them.
Beginning around age three, children begin to demonstrate more socialized play, relying less on parallel play. This is the beginning of Stage 3 in Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development. During this stage children begin to assert themselves more frequently, demonstrating increasing power and control. Examples of this more assertive behavior include actions like riding a bike without a helmet or running away in a parking lot. However, the central attribute of this stage involves repeated interaction with other children or cooperative play. Play provides children the opportunity to explore their social skills through initiating activities. Between the ages of three and five, children begin to act out make-believe characters or games, start planning activities and asking others to play. If given this opportunity, children will develop a sense of initiative and feel confident in their ability to make decisions and guide others. Another way children develop initiative is through the repeated questioning of others. These questions demonstrate a child’s strong desire to increase their fundamental base of knowledge.
Negative behaviors are also demonstrated as children develop this initiative. For example, if a child does not get to play as planned, they become frustrated that their initiative is not working and they can become aggressive.
On the other hand, if children are not given the opportunity, or are criticized in their attempts to initiate play or ask questions of others, they may develop a sense of guilt. This guilt manifests in feeling that they are an annoyance to others, causing them to become followers who lack initiative. For example, if a parent treats a child’s questions as trivial, irritating or embarrassing, then the child may develop feelings of guilt for being an annoyance.
If a child develops too much guilt, then the child may be reluctant to interact with others or may suppress their creativity. Obviously, some guilt is necessary because it helps all of us manage our self-control and cultivate honesty and integrity. It is the successful management or balance between initiative and guilt that results in the development of the virtue or ego quality of purpose.
Technology usage or play can negatively impact this stage because it can prevent children from engaging in the critical interactions of cooperative play. While computer games developed for children in this age range permit children to make choices and exercise control, it is not true control. The games determine the confines of their choices and the creativity of the play. In addition, these games are not interactive in the way a child needs to experience interaction. The games do not provide interpersonal feedback because games cannot offer thoughts, feelings or behaviors. It is only through the experience of witnessing other children or adults’ reactions that children learn interpersonal skills.
Computer game programmers understand how three to five-year olds brains function, and they create games and toys that give children the control or power they desire. While online games provide children the ability to exert their power (what to do in the game); they do not provide them feedback on how to control that power. The feedback children in this age group receive from their peers and parents is crucial to their development, and it provides more context and learning than a program that can be turned off. Without critical skills, children develop problematic interpersonal skills. Spending too much time playing online games that allow children to have power without feedback, children are not given the opportunity to develop critical social skills, which will result in the development of interpersonal issues in later life stages.
Tips for Stage 3 children (ages three – five):
- No access to play personal games on computers, tablets, or cell phones.
- Only allow children to use age appropriate, family interactive games on consoles such as Wii or Xbox Kinect.
- Provide opportunities for your child to play with other children, if they are not enrolled in a pre-school or daycare at age three.
- Practice patience with your child’s unrelenting questioning. Remember it fosters curiosity and initiative.
- Permit your child to take reasonable risks so they can begin developing self-control.