Setting technology boundaries and limiting screen time is essential for your child’s brain development. Technology has transformed the way we live, work, shop and travel. But it has also changed the way our children play and that’s not necessarily a good thing! Unless parents keep screen time in check, today’s technology overload could impede brain development in young children.
Technology has changed the way children experience their world. Many parents will probably admit to switching on the iPad or TV to keep their little ones busy or quiet. Experts argue that this seemingly harmless behaviour can have long-term consequences on their child’s development.
“The first 1000 days of a child’s life are very important for their development. Relationships, experiences and environment strongly influence brain development,” explains Liz Senior, Occupational Therapist and Founder of Clamber Club. “A child’s early experiences play a pivotal role in shaping the architecture of the brain. It also builds the connections that enable him to develop life skills like communication, self-control, problem-solving and relationship building.”
Parents who are constantly busy with their devices are also having an effect on their child’s brain development. “If a parent is often distracted by their tablet or phone, they are more likely to miss their baby’s cues. This can lead to the connection between parent and baby being lost,” says Senior. “Back and forth engagement is an important part of secure attachment, which is critical for healthy brain development in children.”
Too much technology takes its toll
Carte Blanche recently interviewed Liz Senior for the ‘Techno Tots’ feature. They examined the impact that technology can have on children’s development. “While children may learn something from watching or interacting with a screen, the fact remains that children learn best when they experience the real three-dimensional world. Feeling, touching, seeing, moving, problem-solving and connecting with others is where children learn best,” she says.
Other negative consequences of too much technology include:
- Low tone and weak core muscle development
- Gross motor problems
- Weak social skills
- Concentration issues
- Lack of imagination and creativity
- Poor problem-solving skills
- Limited lateral thinking ability
- Impatience and aversion to hard work
- A constant need for instant gratification.
The importance of play
“Children learn through play. It is through watching, listening, creating, moving and doing that they develop cognitively, physically and socially,” says Senior. “They learn best when all the senses are stimulated – visual, auditory, tactile and the movement senses, proprioception and vestibular.”
Children don’t have to be permanently stimulated. They also need quiet times with no connectivity where they can wonder, dream and reflect. Nowadays children seem to have less freedom to simply be. Safety and security issues may not allow the carefree bike riding in the neighbourhood of the past. But it is still possible to give them space to create, explore and imagine without handing them a device to do all the work for them.
“Boredom can be good – it is amazing how resourceful children can be if they have no choice but to play outdoors and create their own games,” says Senior. “Greater self-sufficiency results from learning to deal with boredom. It also stimulates the imagination and enhances creativity,” she adds.
You don’t necessarily have to ban children from screen time at home. “For babies, yes, but toddlers and pre-schoolers can benefit from technology as a tool of learning, as long as the screen time is an interactive, shared experience,” she concludes.
Read more about screen time here.