How is Technology Affecting Our Children?
Jul 31, 2014 05:26PM
● By Lisa O’Brien
Cell phones, computers, iPads, video games, TV—the list continues to grow. The stimulation is everywhere and can be overwhelming. How is all of this ever-increasing electronic screen diversions affecting the development of our children intellectually and socially? ADHD, autism, physical coordination disorders, mental developmental delays, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, and sleep disorders are all associated with technology overuse and are increasing at alarming rates.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under the age of 2 should have no screen time at all. The AAP is now urging all pediatricians to start asking parents about their child’s technology usage at every wellness visit. Digital media are as much a part of child’s life as the air they breathe. Whether this is good or bad is a moot point now—the real challenge is figuring out how to help our children benefit from hightech tools while still making sure that they are playing and learning in the tried-and-true ways.
Creating a balance between the high-tech world and the natural one is a tall order for many parents and can be difficult for many of today’s young ones as well. Start slowly and be sure to offer lots of positive alternatives. If your preschooler usually watches an hour of TV while you cook dinner, set up a kitchen play station with cups, bowls and spoons where they can “cook” or ask them to set the table while you work at the stove. If your teenager usually watches a marathon of shows, watch just one episode together and then head outside for a walk together—a perfect opportunity to discuss topics covered in the show or simply talk about upcoming activities.
A few other suggestions are sports, yoga, dancing, board and card games, hiking, biking and gardening, to name just a few. Consider meditation. It’s a highly powerful way to slow down, center and reconnect not only for the children but for the parents as well. The point of meditation is to focus and quiet the mind as opposed to completely clearing it which is extremely difficult to do especially in today’s world.
Here are a few examples of meditations that can benefit both the children and parents alike:
Find a quiet park or reserve nearby that’ll be easy to visit and abounds with nature. During the first few times you walk together, explain the basic concept of meditation. Stop, look and listen to the world around and go inward. If the child wants to run, help them maintain a balanced, slower pace of running to feel every step and the earth beneath their feet as well as continuing to take in the sounds, smells and sights of nature and any birds or other animals that they may encounter.
Explain to children that this type of meditation can be done anywhere at any time. A quiet place is nice if possible, but not mandatory. Breathing can stimulate or relax the nervous system, so if your child is in a stressful environment or situation, they can use the breath to calm themselves. A couple of very simple, yet powerful breathing techniques are: The counting breath in which you inhale for the count of four and exhale for the count of four. If this feels easy, then increase the count but do not force the breath. It should feel relaxing and calming. Another technique is to place your hands on your belly with only the finger tips barely touching and as you inhale feel the fingertips separate and on the exhale feel them come back together. Set a timer for a few minutes and increase the time a little each time you work with this technique.
Find a guided meditation that can help you and your child come into a beautiful and peaceful space. It can be sounds of the ocean, rain or anything else that’s calming and relaxing. There are many wonderful guided meditations available, so look for one that is age appropriate or make up your own. It’s best to start with some calming breaths to help center yourself. Another alternative is to find a facility near you that offers different forms of meditation.
Some other forms include chanting, art and music. The list is endless. You can turn almost anything into a meditation with a little creative exploring.
Take some simple steps to start helping your child unplug, and you’ll see them become more connected to the positive things in their life—especially their own health, well-being and connection with their family. This can seem to be a challenge as parents also find themselves over-stimulated, stressed and plugged in. So taking time to assess where some adjustments can be made will not only benefit the children but the family as a whole. The gifts of technology can be great if used in a proper and balanced way.
Lisa O’Brien, ERYT, CRM, is founder and owner of Bliss Body Studio & Wellness Center, Collingswood, NJ, 856-261- 0554, [email protected].