Parents constantly checking their mobile phones can be setting up technology addiction in their children. This can affect school work, emotional health and well-being, sleep patterns, alertness, concentration patterns and mood.
Official data shows that by the age of only seven, youngsters will have watched screens recreationally for nearly one full year of 24-hour days!
The knock on impact of this is that children grow up wanting ‘instant’ entertainment, and not developing the creativity to devise their own activities. Screen time also limits social interaction and can have other unwanted side effects: nursery staff at one of my local schools reported that one of their children could only speak in an American accent, reminiscent of the characters from ‘Loony Tunes’!
Researchers in America have found that “every additional hour of TV exposure per day among toddlers corresponded to a future decrease in classroom engagement and success at math, increased victimization by classmates, a more sedentary lifestyle, higher consumption of junk food and, ultimately, higher body mass index… “ (published in the American Medical Association journal Archives of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine)
In the longer term, this over-exposure to screen viewing can only impact negatively on learning.
So what can parents do? Dr Aric Sigman, child health specialist, suggests that parents need to act as “good role models for youngsters by having ‘screen-free dinners’ and not allowing their technology to ‘amputate’ family conversations”.
I would suggest that parents also need to be educated about the way their babies and young children learn. Crucial to this is the role of movement in learning: movement helps develop efficient neural networks in the brain and thus underpins academic learning.