It’s Not Cute Anymore – Part 1

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by Danelle Spence

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01.28.2017

I’ll tell you what’s not cute anymore. I saw iPads actually manufactured into the kid mobile carts at South Centre Mall. Yes, the large strollers that wheel children around the mall, while mom or dad shop. WHAT IS HAPPENING! Not cute. Cute might be that adorable moment your 14-month-old picked up the remote and pretended to talk into. Or the time your 18 month old tried to ‘swipe’ the magazine page. Those are still negotiable cute (as it still seems somewhat alarming) but these iPads in baby strollers … far from cute – for many reasons.

The first being,  why can’t kids observe, look at the action happening around them, or be BORED for an hour? I know, there are many reasons why you would place your child in front of the screen for a few hours. But we scientifically know – evidence strongly supports this – any screen time for kid’s aged 0-2 is unhealthy for the developing brains. I realize and understand that there are lots of occasions when this needs to happen. Parents need breaks, and a gadget does help ‘distract’ kids. The quiet that follows, is rewarding and relieving for a busy, perhaps over-scheduled, deserving-of-a-break parent.

But we mistakenly have the belief that these devices are calming our kids down. It’s actually not calming them. It’s been proven to actually be doing the opposite. These games, TV shows, apps, are hyper-stimulating their young brains, activating the brain’s reward system (they aren’t ready for this) and creating a massive sensory overload. Their little eyes are oscillating back and forth, the flashes and the beeps, create stimulus in all the wrong ways. The companies that create these games know this. Even those claiming these games to be ‘educational’  (the CEOs of these companies) actually put their children in tech-free Montessori schools! How very interesting?!

Because they know.

I’m not saying don’t do it EVER. Because that is definitely not realistic. But I would ask that we, as a society, be mindful of the negative impact screen time can have on our kids, and perhaps keep them as unplugged as often as we can, when we can.

I want to explain the 3 biggest  reasons as to why we should monitor the amount of screen time children have:

  1. Boredom: kids need to be bored as often as they are able. We are an over-scheduled society, and we always have to be ‘productive’. Productivity is a positive thing, but our kids also need to let their little developing brains: linger, daydream, meander, and ponder. These all increase creativity, problem-solving, exploration, curiosity … skills we all need, no? Boredom also helps the brain move items from their active working memory, into the short-term than long-term memory systems. So daydreaming and not being busy, improves our memory systems and actually increases the retention and retrieval of things learned that day. Who doesn’t want a better memory?
  2. Hyper-stimulation: video games, texting, Facebook – all hyper arouse us. We can perhaps handle that, as adults. But not our younger counterparts. It’s too much for them! It has created an inability for our children to sustain attention. Our poor teachers! How can they compete with the buzzing, blinking, zapping of a game? No wonder there is a significant increase in ADHD diagnoses…
  3. Relationships: it is in the observation of watching people, that we begin to learn about relationships, the ping-pong, and flow of conversations and how we belong to the larger community. When kid’s heads are looking at their laps, they miss seeing and therefore learning the subtle nuances that human interactions and conversations provide us.  Instead, they learn to shoot that video game strawberry, but they may not learn how to make proper eye contact. Flying-strawberry-shooting skills, or future healthy social skills?

So my question is …is the mall one of those moments they need to be plugged in? And do we need these screens permanently soldered into these strollers? They can barely hold their heads up.  But they can use their one finger!

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I share my thoughts on technology in bedrooms (don’t do it) social media issues (it can get bad) and how to use technology to grow our brains, not shrink them (like in schools … not like Snapchat).

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About the Author

Danelle Spence

Danelle Spence is a Registered Psychologist with a passion for helping teens effectively manage emotional distress and helping their parents’ understand the complex and developing teenage brain.

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