A recent report said that an adult will spend an average of 7 hours a day on the internet. When we examine social media and search engine traffic, this statistic seems not so surprising. Living in these digital times, people of all ages can become mesmerized and enticed by scrolling and tapping on a personal device; killing hours of time for any number of reasons.
Millennials then are faced with a challenge, as children are even more easily hypnotized and pacified than adults. If parents need quiet or a distraction it can be easily remedied by simply handing over a device, keeping a child occupied for up to hours at a time. Momentarily this seems like a quick-fix, and each and every time it becomes harder to withhold and to say no.
Don’t panic – we’ve all done it, and we aren’t here to pass judgement. We just want to share facts about enabling excessive iPad, iPhone, and tablet use for kiddos.
A lot of times children’s games and videos on mobile devices are designed for to be educational. This is not a negative thing. The problem is not that screens themselves are dangerous, but that they are addictive to adults as well toddlers all the way up until high school age.
Remember how your mom never let you sit too close to the TV? Maybe she or your dad limited your viewing time to two or three episodes a day? Mobile device usage is a double-whammy in this respect. It is always held within a few inches to the face, blocking out everything else and completely diminishing the surrounding environment. Remember that tablet games are also interactive, meaning that it requires active participation from the child and therefore seizes their attention far more than television does.
Dr. Aric Sigman from the British Psychological Society says that when small children become pacified in this way, it creates the opposite affect of what you desire to occur without the device: the skills to engage with others and be entertained without relying on a screen.
Screen time too early in life “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed,” Sigman says.
The exact psychology behind this is extensive, but at least one aspect of it can be explained quite simply.
Children are far more impressionable than adults and during development their minds are hypersensitive to their environments. When the brain is overstimulated repeatedly over a series of months and years, simpler activities like coloring with crayons or playing outside do not satisfy the mind because these activities are not as complex or entertaining. Upon discovering it is not as stimulating, boredom kicks in faster and so does the eagerness to return back to the mobile device. Therefore, prolonged screen-time can desensitize the want to play outside, exercise, and use imagination; all critical aspects of both physical and mental growth.
Remember when you got a yo-yo, and it was the coolest thing in the world, but then at one point you discovered video games, and the yo-yo collected dust on the shelf for the rest of its life? It’s like that, only a continual, cycling complex.
How is this remedied? Well, the simple answer is just to limit use or to not introduce it at all until the child is older. However, if you are wanting to still actively use mobile devices in your home, here are a few ideas we’ve cooked up to use as alternatives.
1. The next time you are in the car longer than a few minutes, encourage to make pictures in the clouds outside the window.
2. Play I-spy, by describing an object along the road and having your child guess what it is.
3. If they are old enough to read, try the alphabet game. That means start with looking for objects that start with an A, then B, etc.
4. Choose one day a week where there is absolutely no screen-time. Play outside or visit family and friends. Explain that this is just one day, and be consistent with the habit. This means no screen time for parents either, other than talking or texting when necessary, so as to set an example. If you feel this to be too daunting, instead remove screens at least 90 minutes before bedtime and ask all your children to turn in their phones and devices. This will help everyone in the family sleep better, too.
5. If a child is stubborn and resistant to these ideas, change the passcode on the device. Tell them after an hour of outside play, chores, or any other activity you chose you can give it to them when they have completed the given task.
We hope these ideas are helpful and assist you in cultivating healthy and attentive young minds! To read more on this topic, click here.