...Screen exposure, and it's keeping me awake at night.
A few months ago, I began to wonder why I was seeing more children with mild to important challenges with concentration and even physical coordination. I reached out to educators and head of schools in Paris, the US and the UK. Everyone shook their heads in agreement. I asked myself, what could have changed so significantly in the past 6 years? And then suddenly, I had a realization…every child under 6 years of age today, has spent his or her entire life exposed to smartphones, either directly or indirectly. Seeing their own parents using the device, experiencing their parent’s absorption in the sleek and sexy little Meta machine, or worse, being handed the phone to entertain them.
So I began to research the subject and I am still reeling. There is an enormous body of scientific knowledge available on the subject, and yet very little seems to be making it’s way into our households and schools. I interview young parents everyday and can say with certainty that the majority of them ignore the extent to which smartphones can harm their child’s development.
A few basic facts that we all need to know and share:
Any Screen exposure before the age of two years is harmful.
Screen exposure at the age of three years should not exceed one hour per day, and only in the company of an involved adult.
Applications touting early learning for children under two years of age are useless and in the long run harmful. These apps are watched passively, children learn through interaction.
There have been some unfortunate amalgams circulating, and we need to be careful about hasty conclusions. The diagnosis of autism has developed extensively in the past decades, and the defining criteria have evolved. We now speak of the autism spectrum.
It is not currently possible to establish a link between autism and screen exposure.
What many pediatricians are seeing however are symptoms shared by children who are over exposed to screens, and children on the autism spectrum.
Singing and dancing: the antidote to the smartphone!
When humans move together, they form invisible bonds. In an increasingly interconnected world, we are becoming more disconnected bodily. Practicing music in a group allows children to belong: to be part of a bigger project in intricate, visceral cooperation with others. Imagine the experience of a 21st century child, a member of what I call the smartphone generation. He is often given a screen to watch, and his own parents are constantly watching their own screens. A child learns through his body, but increasingly, he is growing up in a bodiless world. When children practice music together, they do so with their bodies, and they also experience the physical reality of another human being.
I know it is not easy dealing with the demands of parenthood, especially since many of us come home from work, and begin the workday of trying to be good parents. But please consider establishing a non-connected window of time in which you talk, laugh, sing, cook and play with your children. Get on the floor, play hide and seek, make up stories, sing songs and worry not, your smartphone will be there waiting for you when your children have gone to sleep!
I highly recommend this easy to read article published by Amy and Evelyn Guttmann, two Occupational Therapists from New York. It is science based and not aimed at sensation.
If you would like some very detailed information please look at this excellent research paper from the
Canadian Paediatric Society published in October 2017
Click here to access the research paper: Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world