The technology that offers screen to our kids is here to stay and will not go away. This is already part of modern childhood. Good thing, there are several advantages of using technology to aid learning in children. It actually helps in developing coordination, improving quick reaction, as well as in honing communication and vocabulary skills. The entertainment value that gadgets offer to a child is not the same as when they’re reading or are being read to. Screen time definitely is a factor in brain development of this generation.
It is not totally a bad thing until you hand over that iPad to your very young toddler; or when your preschooler spends most of his day in front of the screen. Dr. Aric Sigman of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, said that screens can unintentionally cause permanent damage to infant’s (2 and below) still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon, he says, “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets”.
Reading, despite lacking in the variety of audio-visual elements, is still a proven method of boosting brain development. There are several reasons why. Here are some of them:
Following a story line versus spoon-fed stories
Reading to a child fosters active, not passive thinking. The child is compelled to listen intently to mom’s variety of animated voices; to imagine the full picture of the story’s scenes; and to focus on following a story line. All these are undermined when screens spoon-feed stories to kids complete with audio and visual dynamics. There is little room for more imagination and reflection. Reading at an early age is beneficial because it enhances focus and concentration during the critical period of brain development from birth to age three. Screen technology, on the other hand, offers multiple stimuli happening at one time. It is exactly what the brain does not need during this developmental phase.
Decoding nonverbal cues
We have been taught that being able to read nonverbal cues is a sign of one’s level of sensitivity. It promotes thinking when we try to analyze why people act a certain way. Because this requires physical interaction, decoding nonverbal cues cannot be achieved when kids just spend their day in front of screen gadgets. There has to be a healthy amount of social interaction such as playing with other kids or engaging with parents and teachers. The nonverbal signs such as tone of voice, facial expressions, and actions can be demonstrated through real-life participation or when an adult reads to a child.
Psyschology today says that: “If your young child is spending all of his time in front of an iPad instead of chatting and playing with teachers and other children, his empathetic abilities—the near-instinctive way you and I can read situations and get a feel for other people—will be dulled, possibly for good.”
Dopamine becomes addictive for the brain
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is most associated with pleasure. During screen time, It activates in the brain when there is immediate stimuli after a particular action (i.e. swiping the screen so the child sees the next candy prize). Dopamine is addictive especially when a child is regularly exposed to receiving quick stimuli as a result of screen time action. This explains why some kids have trouble with delayed gratification.
Reading on the other hand, suggests a slower and more rhythmic flow of actions and reactions based on a story line. It raises anticipation and more active thinking about what will happen next in the plot compared to simply manipulating a gadget or game to know the ending.
Should we ditch the tablet all together?
Experts say there is advantage in exposing children to modern technology. We know for sure because technology has prompted innovation in society. However, exposure to screens too early at a very young age, and at lengthy periods is brain-damaging and it is non-reversible! Reading, as we all know, ups your child’s vocabulary, nonverbal analytical skills, and imagination — at any age.
The key will always be moderation. For kids aged 3 years old and above, a maximum of one hour each day for screen time is ideal. Monitoring what children watch and absorb is also recommended to ensure they only take in age-appropriate information and values. More importantly, schedule a time to experience a variety of activities that boost brain development like playing with peers, interacting with adults, napping, and reading books with you.
For a wide variety of baby to preschool books that enhance brain development and learning, visit the new children’s books section at National Book Store online.
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