pink girl with iPad40% of children ages 8 and under have their own tablet, up from 1 percent in 2011

Hope that got your attention.

Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my 3-part post on devices and our children with Down syndrome. Last time I gave you info about devices and our babies age 2 and younger. Today let’s move on to the next step…

Our children 3-8 and their devices

As parents of kids with Down syndrome, we know all too well the lure of the screen…sure, it can teach some things, and it can babysit our kids while we’re queued in an endless line, or in the waiting room for speech therapy. That’s all true and useful.

child addicted to iPadIt can also be deeply addicting. So we need to have some essential information, and then we need to decide what to do with that information. We need to mesh this new knowledge with our family’s situation and our own need to make everything run as realistically as we can. We can’t do the impossible. But we can modify what we’re doing now if it ain’t goin’ in the healthiest direction!

EXCEPTION: nonverbal children use apps like Proloquo2go to communicate with the world. Ten thumbs up for these apps and AAC devices! They can change lives! 

The folks who designed our rabbit holes

A quick Google search for “device use and addiction” will give you more than you have time to read. I have a folder now (a real one, with actual paper in it) full of articles on that topic. Scary stuff.

Rabbit-holeThe bottom line is that device use, especially when it involves social media, apps, games, etc., not only IS addictive, it was DESIGNED to be so. Deliberately. People who originally designed these platforms to “exploit our vulnerabilities and get us hopelessly hooked” (The New York Times) are now publicly speaking out about their horror of where we’re headed with this addiction. Among those blowing the warning whistle is Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, who now says, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

In the Pro locker room

nba-logoNo one is immune. Not you, not me. The Milwaukee Bucks had to institute a new locker room rule: Stay off your phone before and during games. Navigating music playlists is okay; nothing else. Focus, focus!

Other NBA teams have put the same rule into place. “I try to stay out of it,” says Memphis Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks, “but when you walk in after a game, every single person is on their phone, just looking at Instagram, looking at Twitter.”

We have become a distracted nation. But enough about grownups…what about our kids?

What medical science says…

Let’s get some input from docs who deal with development and neurology. Here’s a sampling:

  • communication skills can be hampered because screen time is used to replace face-to-face interactive communication; this affects our kids’ communication ability across all ages
  • even with educational apps, kids learn best by interacting with humans, not screens. This has been proven by research around the world. (See my book “Whole Child Reading“)
  • the neurological impact on the developing brain is unknown; as the brain is still developing, this is a major concern
  • excessive screen time can interfere with kids’ sleeping, eating, and their ability to concentrate and control impulses

What you can do

I’ll make this short and sweet. Two things:

  1. Monitor and limit time on devices. Any devices. The effect on the brain is similar.
  2. Through both your words and actions, give your children the message that device use is not an entitlement. It is a privilege, and they can earn that privilege through cooperation, chores, homework completed, etc. 

I’m not kidding

73210336If you think we adults don’t also struggle with the constantly checking our phones (average adult: 50 to 300 times daily) or otherwise disconnecting from our selves, choosing mindlessness over mindfulness, consider this: a 2014 study by researchers at Harvard and the U. of Virginia found that “nearly half to the participants would rather give themselves a small electric shock than sit for 15 minutes immersed alone in their own thoughts.” !!!

What works for you?

You might want to sit by yourself (phone in another room!) and think about what you can do to avoid the rabbit hole and give your child the best possible chance to develop and learn. Just limit the allowed device time for your child and make it an earned privilege, not an entitlement. ‘Nuff said!

I hope this helps…


nat's signature

Recent Posts