“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO television or screen exposure for children younger than two years of age”
Children are sensory beings, especially in their first years of life. Their natural and most effective means of learning and experiencing the world is through using all of their senses. Watching television, using iPads, computers and similar devices cripples a young one’s sensory development.
“Picture this… you are in a classroom and the teacher shows a picture of a rose and asks the class to come up with as many descriptive words as they can to describe a rose. If you have had previous interactions with a rose, you know that its smell is heavenly, but that there are also thorns on its stem that can hurt you. Looking at the picture, you may even recall the first time someone gave you a rose, or you heard the sound of bees buzzing around the flower. Whatever it may be that you recall from the visual representation of a rose, it is your first-hand experiences that have taught your brain everything you know about roses; their smell, feel, look, and maybe even taste. Without your multi-sensory experience with roses previous to seeing the picture of the rose, your brain would not know anything more about a rose except for what you are seeing projected in front of you. Our brain counts on us to provide it with sensory interactions so that we can create the fertile environment in which it can reach its potential. Our brains are like a rose: if we provide it with what it needs, it will grow.” (Lathbury, 2013)
What are the effects of a lack of sensory development?
For children under the age of two- the effects can be detrimental and long lasting. Children who have “screen time” daily could develop and exhibit numerous cognitive issues including: “a decreased attention span, underdeveloped or delayed language abilities, critical thinking abilities or creativity skills, and decreased intrinsic motivation for learning.” (Lathbury, 2013)
Why should parents intervene now?
The fact is technology will continue to produce products geared towards use by small children. “It is feared that products such as baby-proof iPad covers and iPotties, which feature built-in iPad stands, only fuel the problem.” (Ward, 2013) These products allow children of all ages to use these devices with ease which leads them to want to use them more and more which has become a prevalent problem in and of itself. Children who frequently have screen time have been shown to have “full out emotional tantrums when deprived of those devices, reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behaviour when they are taken away. Then as they grow older, the problem only gets worse.” (Ward, 2013) The first two years of life are laying the foundation for the next 90. This is the best time to help foster your child’s growth and development in ways that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Help expand your child’s senses and horizons so that they don’t become dependent on and chained to technological devices in their later years. While prevention is the best option, any intervention is better than none and the earlier the better.
Is all screen time harmful?
No, not all screen time is harmful; there are definitely ways to raise media literate children. Children who are media literate use screen time as a tool to help them think critically about the ideas and images that are being presented to them. The key point is in understanding that true media literacy isn’t possible for small children, especially those under the age of two. Some ways to help older children become media literate include:
- Activity #1: TV/ Movie Book discussions. Parents can keep track of the dates when a TV or movie version of a book is scheduled to air and encourage their kids to read the book first. Great discussions can result from comparing the original book to the TV/movie version.
- Activity #2: Use the TV to expand your children’s interests. Parents can link TV programs with their child’s interests, activities, and hobbies. A child interested in crafts can watch craft programs for encouragement and ideas; after viewing a wildlife show, take the kids to the zoo and have them recall what they learned about the animals from the TV program. How does the real life experience differ from the show they watched?
- Activity # 3: Different Viewpoints. This activity incorporates the whole family. The family watches one program together. The TV is then turned off and each person writes a few sentences explaining their opinions about the show. Discuss and compare everyone’s thoughts, and point out to your child how different people will like or dislike the same program. Why are all perspectives valid? Who had the most persuasive view about the show and why?
- Activity # 4: The Guessing Game. This activity starts by turning the volume off but leaving the TV picture on. See if your child can guess what is happening. To expand this into a family game, have everyone pick a TV character and add his/her version of that character’s words.
- Activity # 5: Ask: “What will happen next?” This is a simple yet effective activity. Mute the commercials while your family watches a TV show together and ask each child and adult what he/she thinks will happen next. There are no right or wrong answers! This gives everyone a chance to engage in creative interplay and then to test his/her “hypothesis” when the show resumes. Children may learn just how predictable and mundane a lot of programs are and soon improve on the scripts by adding their own creative ideas.
- Activity # 6: Talk about Real Life Consequences. Start a discussion about what would happen if screen violence were actually occurring in real life, what might the consequences to the perpetrator and the victim of the violence be. Compare what’s on the screen to the consequences of what happens when someone hurts another person in the real world.
Knowledge isn’t enough
It is and should be an intrinsic drive for parent’s to want the best for their children. There are so many other options available when it comes to occupying your tot’s time. “Although 81 per cent of our users felt that children today spend too much time on smart devices, it hasn’t put most of them off using them to entertain their baby.” (Ward, 2013) It is the hope that with research like those cited in this post, coupled with parental intuition, that parent’s will start to take note of the potential damage that could result from exposing young children to screen time. Children desire to and should have the opportunity to spend their first few years of life developing all of their senses equally. It might make the process of finding ways to entertain them a little more exhausting, but holding off on technology is well worth the wait.
Lathbury, P. (2013, april 18). Is viewing the same as doing? what parents need to know about screentime. Retrieved from http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/kids-and-technology/is-viewing-the-same-as-doing-what-parents-need-to-know-about-how-screen-time-is-affecting-the-growing-brains-of-their-children/
ward, V. (2013, april). Toddlers becoming so addicted to ipads they require therapy. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/10008707/Toddlers-becoming-so-addicted-to-iPads-they-require-therapy.html