Keeping our children away from on-screen experiences entirely is impossible in today’s technology-driven world. But you could be falling into some parenting traps in your child’s early years that could have a knock-on effect − particularly when it comes to your child’s ability to pay attention, which is a vital skill for achieving success in the future.
What you need to ask yourself is whether your child’s use of tech is empowering him to be able to choose where to focus his attention, or distracting him and snatching his attention away from what is important.
Use this acronym “BEEPP” to determine whether you’re over-reliant on technology when parenting.
How often do you use technology to babysit your child so you’re free to do other things? Young children need and want you in their lives. A screen may occupy your child, but it can’t fill your child up emotionally the way you can. Do you see me? Do you hear me? Am I important to you? These are three questions your child asks you, non-verbally, every day. When side-lined to a device too often, they’re not getting yes answers to these questions and will assuage their pain with a device.
Do you use screens as an emotional crutch to put your child to sleep or get them to eat? Many parents report that their children can do neither without the aid of a screen. This means they’re not developing the self-regulation skills and self-discipline for the basics in life. If they can’t fall asleep without the aid of a digital tablet now, imagine what kind of tablet they may need in the future.
Is technology an experience thief, stealing or displacing real-life experiences from your child that are essential for their development? Young children learn best through concrete learning experiences with real people and real toys in real time, which give them multisensory experiences of the world. Tech has so much to offer, just make sure you create real foundations first.
Do you use a screen to pacify your child or prevent a tantrum? While it most certainly will keep your child quiet, it also shuts her down and prevents her from experiencing and reconciling her emotional world. Beware of how you use devices to manage your child.
Is your child reliant on technology to prompt him what to do next? Children are losing their initiative and creativity, because they’re becoming so used to being instructed by an adult or a programme on a device. Help your child to develop their own initiative versus being helpless − something increasingly witnessed by teachers in the classroom.
Prevention is better than cure. Vaccinate immediately with regular doses of screen-free time characterised by the warm fuzzy features of play, movement, communication and connection. As a parent of a young child, you need to instil healthy media habits from a young age to ensure he develops the ability to choose where and when he wants to focus his attention. This gift is as important as learning how to read.