Electronic devices and young children
MORE children are starting school with serious speech problems because parents relying on smartphones and iPads as “babysitting” tools are allowing excessive use, education leaders have warned. Up to one in eight children in some preschool and Reception classes need speech therapy because they have been starved of conversation and not read to enough at home. (LINK)
This is really sad, especially the last sentence about children “being starved of conversation”.
What are some parents doing and I use the word some, as many parents are doing the right thing?
Whilst it isn’t new to use electronic devices as a babysitting tool (the TV has been used for years), it would appear that a wider range of devises are now being used (computers, tablets and smart phones) for longer periods per day perhaps with younger and younger children. However it was interesting to read further down the article that it wasn’t just the increase in electronic devices that could be affecting childhood development, it was . . . smaller families, less time with extended families and fewer play opportunities were among “lifestyle changes” that might explain the problem. . . Increasingly busy parents who felt pressured to develop children’s academic rather than social skills was another possible explanation.
Times have changed and it hasn’t been good for our children. When I was growing up in the 1970s I had lots of interactions with people and no interaction with electronic devises (we didn’t own a TV). Now the tables have flipped and children have hours of time with electronic devises and not enough time with “real” people.
As a child:
- I had lots interactions with brothers, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles.
- Went on play-dates to my school friends’ homes (my mum knew their mums very well).
- We visited friends on Sundays for afternoon tea which taught us how to behave in social gatherings.
- We had dinner together with lively conversation.
- I was read to each night and exposed to many books.
- Mum often took me to the grocery store, to the butcher, to the library and the places like the bank and post office where I had plenty of opportunities to communicate with grown-ups (with people who knew us personally).
However many of these opportunities to interact with others are vanishing; with extended families no longer as important as in the past (or live nearby any more), families have shrunk in size, family time is no longer considered as necessary (such as eating together), many tired parents don’t spend as much time reading to their children and perhaps quite different to my childhood – after school activities fills a child’s life to the point where they don’t have time for creative play. And with the introduction of online shopping and banking and with shopping rushed on the way home at the supermarket there is no longer that old-fashion personal connection any more.
Now, one could argue that women working is entirely to blame (and many would) — yes, it has caused some of these social changes (but some of these changes started to appear from the 1950s when women were at home). And I wouldn’t jump to conclusions and say that poor communication skills was the result of sending children to childcare (i.e. working mothers) as most childcare centres do not use electronic devises (they even limit TV viewing) and carers spend lots of time reading and interacting with children and the children interacting with each other. All good for communication. However I do think parents see themselves as “too busy/exhausted” to do many of the things we use to do however I do question if they are any busier that in the past or are not using their time as wisely as they should. We have so many modern gadgets around the house to make our lives easier and many mothers rely heavily on convenience foods these days, we shouldn’t be quite as busy is in the past. I sometimes wonder if parents have in fact become lazy parents and find it easier to pop a child in front of an iPad or TV rather than sitting down and playing with their child.
Enough of my ramblings on this topic.
PS Hope this all makes sense, writing this as my chicken stir fry cooks!