It's amazing how far technology has come, and tablets and iPad's are brilliant when it comes to entertaining little ones and educating them. But of course, like with anything balance is important.
At the minuite, while the country remains in lockdown, screens have been our saviour, and whether you're sticking a film on netflix or they're playing a game on the iPad, they're a welcome distraction when you're trying to get anything done.
With a generation of very tech savvy toddlers and super fast internet speeds, our tots are quicker than we are when it comes to navigating their way around a tablet or computer. And while this will stand them in good stead when it comes to using technology in school, it's important we learn more about the impact that screentime can have on our little ones.
Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman states that, by the time they are seven years old, most children born today will have spent the equivalent of a full year glued to screens.
The internet provokes what we call a ‘Butterfly mentality’; where the brain flits from thing to thing without having to focus for very long
“By it’s very nature, the internet provokes what we call a ‘Butterfly mentality’; where the brain flits from thing to thing without having to focus for very long,” says Martina Barrett, Co-Founder of VAKS, the Hertfordshire-based Tuition company that prides itself on bringing educational support back to real people and real learning.
“When children are constantly on iPads and smartphones, it’s no surprise they find it increasingly difficult to sit in a classroom and concentrate for up to an hour at a time. We are finding that children become tired quicker, their engagement with printed texts is not as great and even their motor skills are suffering from the constant use of touch screens as opposed to toys and tools that require manual manipulation.”
What is FOBO?
Experts in both social psychology and technological development have spoken about the phenomenon of FOBO (Fear Of Being Offline - also known as FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out) and its direct correlation with anxiety symptoms; where sufferers are compelled to constantly check their devices in order to reassure themselves that they have not somehow missed out on something.
“The irony is that, due to online formats, children are technically reading more often these days - but it’s not Committed Reading, where they sit down and properly focus on a book. They’re skimming short blocks of text and most of their information is given in the form of videos, Vines and games.”
All down to dopamine?
According to research, our reduced attention spans could be due to the effects of dopamine released in our brains as we browse the internet.
Dopamine is the chemical responsible for transmitting signals in the brain and is activated when something good happens unexpectedly. Usually linked with rewards and addictive behaviour, browsing the internet often leads to a spike in our dopamine levels and spurs us on to seek another immediate high.
“Constant exposure to screens is not just affecting children’s ability to learn, it is affecting their ability to process information and apply it in a meaningful way,” says Martina. “Technology is definitely the forefront of the modern world but there are still many events that require young people to focus and work methodically – whether that’s in an exam, when writing a personal statement or setting up a science experiment.”
“Our recommendation would always be to limit the amount of time children spend on screens, especially before bed or after school,” says Jacqui. “In today’s world, our devices have become an immediate source of entertainment rather than tools to be used when needed. Children need to learn that their iPad is no substitute for their own brain!”
Ways to find balance when it comes to screentime
Now more than ever, it's pretty near impossible to parent without using screens in some way or another, espcially if your children are being homeschooled through the use of online apps and websites.
It is however very important for your children to still get a good night's sleep and even us grown ups know how being on our phones late at night can distrupt our sleep. That's why it's a good idea to ensure your little ones avoid screen time in the hours leading up to their bed time by swapping screens for books, board games, bathtime or an after dinner walk outside.