19 Feb 2013 No Comments
By Lisa Dalesandro, author of the book “Raise a Reader:25 Effective Things to Get Kids Reading.”
Has this massive growth in media consumption actually changed the way our children’s brains are wired? Unfortunately, the research is starting to confirm this frightening prospect might actually be true. And not in a good way.
Jane Healy author of a fascinating book that looks at brain science, the media and our children entitled Endangered Minds: Why Children Can’t Think — And What We Can Do About It is concerned about the effects of television, smart phones and video games on our kids’ brains. She contends that these components of popular culture are compromising our children’s ability to concentrate and to absorb and analyze information.
Drawing on neuropsychological (brain) research she contends that even supposedly educational shows like “Sesame Street” develop “habits of the mind” that place children at a disadvantage in school.
It is no coincidence, Healy suggests, that alongside the advent of television and computer games, there has been a drastic increase in the numberof children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. As children grow, they have a very distinct developmental need.
She states,”Neuroscience suggests strongly that if the child’s developmental need during these periods are not met, we may actually close down some of those developmental windows.”
She goes on to speculate on the cultural causes behind this change.
And though “certain brains have constitutional difficulty in paying attention our culture is not helping those brains develop strategies for attention and may be pushing some kids off the deep-end who wouldn’t be there otherwise. Outside of school, many of our students are not partaking in those critical activities that stretch and deepen their brains. Instead, they often gravitate to those behaviors that offer instant gratification.”
As a result, many children are literally starving the lobes of the prefrontal cortex of their brains, a starvation Healy characterizes as “frightening.”
The media floodgate has clearly opened over the last few decades. Gone are the days where computers, smart phones, iPads, and video games do not exist.
With all this information in mind, it seems clear that a wise parent would put some strict limits on the amount of time and usage their kids get when it comes to electronics. In fact, their growing brains may depend upon it.
Here’s five things a concerned parent can do.
1. Set limits. Limit the amount of time your child has access to TV, video games, and smart phones. Research shows that up to 10 TV-hours a week, that’s less than an hour and a half a day, has no impact on children’s grades but beyond that the grades decline.
2. Bedrooms. Don’t let your child have a television in their room. And I would strongly encourage you to keep the computer out of their room as well. As they get older, this may become more and more difficult but many internet safety experts advocate keeping any computer that children use that has internet access in a public area of your home. That way you can keep an eye on what your child is both watching on television and what is popping up on that computer screen.
3. Meal time limits. No television during meal time. No phones at the table either. That no-cell-phone rule sometimes proves harder for the parents to adhere to than the kids if you feel like you need to keep checking texts and emails from work.
4. Daycares and schools. If you have toddlers and/or preschool aged children, select a day-care that strictly limits television and other forms of electronics.
5. Set a good example. You can’t expect your kids to limit electronic use if you’re constantly on your laptop or cell phone at home. Children will mirror your behavior.