Television and computers are having an undeniable impact on the brains of our youth. In order to weigh the positive and negative impact of technology on learning and development in children today, we must first explore how specific connections in the brain play a critical role in cultivating language, reading, and analytical skills. Development of connections between areas in a child’s brain depends upon the kind of exercise the brain receives.
American children spend 22 – 28 hours per week watching television. That is about three to four hours per day and doesn’t even account for additional time spent playing video games. So what greater impact is this having on our children? Recent studies indicate that exposure to as little as two hours of television per day can cause significant sleep problems in children. It can also contribute to obesity and poor school performance.
Further research shows that for every hour a young child watches violent programming, even if that programming is a cartoon medium, the risk of facing challenges surrounding attention doubles. Watching violent or non-educational TV before the age of three has also been found to share a correlation with development of attention difficulties five years later. Attention problems include decreased concentration, restlessness, impulsive behavior, and a propensity for confusion.
Clearly there’s a problem. But what can parents do to correct the issue and avoid the pitfalls caused by a poor “stimulation diet?” Alternatives to TV include playing and interacting with family and friends, reading, riding bikes, running, playing ball, and laughter with friends. Interaction and play teach creativity, social skills, language development, motor skills, and more. While all of these skills are vital, literacy is especially important. By third or fourth grade, children are reading for content and mastery of subject matter. Any barrier to language development slows this step and can affect academic performance across the board. Better able to understand their child’s specific needs, parents who spend more direct interaction time with their children are also able to shape their behavior and give positive reinforcement.
Before you “pull the plug” on all of your devices literally and figuratively, bear this in mind: Not all cases of attention problems and social skill deficits are perpetuated by too much ‘screen time.’ The right kind of technology, in the right measure, can be a helpful learning tool. If your child exhibits any of the difficulties discussed above, it doesn’t mean you’re a ‘bad’ parent or that those challenges will result in long-term consequences. There are solutions that your family can explore. ACCESS is here to help. The first step is making an appointment with the ACCESS Evaluation and Resource Center (AERC) to diagnose difficulties and develop a plan of action. We offer a full range of comprehensive programs and services to address psychological, educational, and therapeutic needs. For more information, contact an admissions specialist at 501-217-8600.