Every 29.53 days a full moon makes its appearance in the sky. What many teachers, mental health professionals, ER doctors and others will argue is that this phenomenon makes people “crazier”. After all, “lunacy” means insanity and comes from the word “lunar” meaning moon. After many years of studies and research, the results show that not a lot of evidence can back this so-called “finding”. Studies have shown that kids’ activity level and sleep levels are almost identical to those during the rest of the month.
So what is making our kids have more behavioral issues in school? What is making it more difficult for them to focus? What is inhibiting their ability to effectively problem-solve, self-regulate and emotionally develop? What is decreasing their sleep and decreasing their chances to be creative and exploratory? The answer may surprise you.
Children as early as 10 months are learning how to get on phones, swipe iPads, and are watching their parents only communicate to the device in front of them and not to each other. The impact? Detrimental to not only people’s relationships and means of communication and developing intimacy with one another, but with the children who are watching them.
Unfortunately, Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is getting a bad rep. Children are expected to sit still when their very beings need to move in order to learn. In fact, teachers and parents and even some mental health professionals are quick to diagnose children with “behavioral problems”, who can’t “focus”, “sit still” or behave appropriately in classrooms with ADHD. What’s even more disturbing is that children are being medicated for these reasons when often times, behavioral management techniques and a disconnect from a bright device in front of their face would do just as good.
I would bet that 65% of those assumed to have ADHD really do not. A child is assumed to be too hyper or inattentive when they can’t sit still in a classroom for 6 hours or when they act out instead of using their words consistently. Yes, many children will develop ADHD. Yes, it is a real diagnosis with real symptoms. No, not every child who cannot focus and wants to run around a classroom have it.
Children’s developing sensory, motor, and attachment systems are not equipped to handle the messy, chaotic, and loud environment that technology brings. Since the increase in today’s technology, more children have been diagnosed with behavioral, psychological and developmental disorders.
A recent article in the Huffington Post called “The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child” suggests that children need 4 main things to achieve healthy child development, including the following:
Children need to move. In fact, children learn more about their world and how to navigate it through movement. They learn how to problem-solve; they are releasing the naturally produced endorphins in their bodies in healthy, constructive ways. The endorphins that their bodies automatically produce have to be released in some way. If it’s not through movement, it will often be released through what adults describe as “behavior problems” and in social settings where the behaviors may not be deemed as normal.
Exercise, running, riding bikes, going on walks, playing sports, or playing hide-and-seek are all great ways children can release endorphins.
One of the most rewarding ways for children to learn how the world works is through touch. If you’ve ever had a kid in a store, you know they want to touch everything. They want to feel it. They want to experience it through their hands because they’ve never felt like it before. Touch teaches children how to experience the world with their hands. And no, this doesn’t mean through the screen of an electronic device. Touch allows them to feel water, which can be a natural soothing technique to calm down. Touch allows children to learn about the world- what could be safe and unsafe. Touch allows them to connect with things if they don’t quite have the words to verbalize how they feel.
3. Human Connection
Technology diminishes human connection. How many times have you seen a child trying to get their mom or dad’s attention while they were on their phone? The parent yells, says their name, pulls on their shirt, all while the parent is heads down swiping, texting, or mindlessly checking their email. They are not connected to their child’s miscues or cues which is imperative to know for a secure attachment.
Attachment is a term that I use frequently in my work in play therapy. It relates to how well the child is connected to the primary caregiver and how much he or she trusts that person. This is how the child learns if the world is safe and if they can rely on others to get their needs met or if they have to solely rely on themselves. For example, if an infant cries because it has a wet diaper, and the caregiver picks up the baby and changes the diaper, this is considered a cue that was accurately perceived. If the caregiver was hungry and got its diaper change instead, this would have been a miscue. If enough miscues happen, if a child lays in its crib for hours without being stimulated or having an adult meet their needs, then it is likely the child begins to form an insecure attachment, which means the child may be extra clingy, ambivalent toward the caregiver (as in the child doesn’t care if the caregiver is there or not) or avoidant where the child avoids interaction with the caregiver.
These types of attachments can be formed from many different types of interactions, especially with those of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, the neglect of children’s needs is becoming more and more common due to the growing market and addiction to be connected to an electronic device by the parent.
4. Exposure to Nature
I remember being a child and and being covered in dirt, playing in the creek
behind our house picking out Indian beads from the rocks. I learned to create. I learned to imagine. I learned to believe in a world beyond the 700 person town I lived in and created a world of my own. I played tigers and lions in the middle of our living room with my brothers, pretending that I lived in an animal kingdom fighting for my life.
I didn’t have an iPad. I didn’t have a tablet. I didn’t have a phone to distract myself with. I didn’t even have a computer. I went outside. I played baseball with my brothers.
The benefits of nature in a child’s life is increase in creativity, in play and imagination, instills a sense of peace and oneness with the natural surroundings and naturally decreases anxiety. It gives children the chance to be innovative in solving problems and improving self-regulation skills so that they can learn how to regulate without a bright screen put in front of their face to keep quiet for a mere 5 minutes.
Trust me, I get it. As parents, you need a moment of silence, a break, and a second to breathe and take care of yourselves; however, there are many ways to do this without subjecting your child to increased stimulation and hormone levels through the means of a bright screen.
Technology has its benefits, I understand this. It stimulates the mind and it increases learning to an extent, for adults. This article isn’t to make you feel bad, but just to bring awareness to what technology can really do to the developing child. If you need other ways to connect with your child or keep them occupied, or if you find that taking away the iPad no longer is an effective discipline technique, please contact Robin at 785.408.PLAY or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your options. Robin will be conducting a Parenting Workshop beginning February 7 from 5:30-7:00pm, for the next 6 Tuesdays thereafter to learn effective ways to bond with your child, effective discipline techniques, and hands-on approaches to get your toddler, adolescent, or pre-teen to listen to you.
Contact us today!
Robin Helget, LMSW, CPT
Resolve - Counseling and Wellness
Prairie Village, KS