How “Smart” is it?— Does Media Effect our Children’s Development?
With the holidays approaching, I find myself in the grocery more and more. As I was checking out one of my many trips, I noticed a toddler no more than 2 years old in the cart in front of me sitting quietly, entertaining herself by masterfully accessing her mother’s smart phone while her mother quickly bagged her groceries. It is truly amazing how proficient some kids are with these devices: opening the apps they want, maneuvering seamlessly between the screens, accessing the exact YouTube video they want to watch, participating in simple cause and effect games, and learning some academic skills all under the age of 2 years. Children have more and more access to technology and are starting the use of media at a much younger age. And as the technology becomes more advanced, accessibility with the devices becoming smaller and more portable that it essentially becomes part of your child’s day. A study done in 2007 of a random sample of 1009 parents with children under the age of 2 revealed that 90% their children watch some form of electronic media.
So what could the effects be of increased media usage with young children?
Some children benefit from being exposed to media a young age. It is reported that children over the age of 2 have some educational benefits such as improved social skills, language skills, and even academic readiness when they watch high quality educational programming with a parent watching alongside them. It is a convenient, portable, discreet activity that can keep a child’s attention during transitional times, errands, car rides, or when children have to wait.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in 1999 of the effects of media use on infants and children under the age of 2 years old. They believe that children under the age of 2 should not be exposed to media due to “(1) the lack of evidence supporting educational or developmental benefits for media use younger than 2 years old, (2) the potential adverse health and developmental effects of media use by children younger than 2 years, and (3) adverse effects of parental media use (background media) on children younger than 2 years.”
You cannot shelter children from technology and children are extremely curious about media. As with any sort of activity it should be done in moderation and with parent discretion. Even though the child is a whiz at accessing all the fun apps on the smart device there is no part of childhood development that warrants access to these devices especially under the age of 2.
Development with in the first two years is extremely critical. Children begin exploring their environment as soon as they are born and they begin to interact with the people around them. Besides sleeping a majority of the time, they are enjoying physical contact and tactile stimulation which lays the groundwork for development of the awareness of their bodies. They will draw attention to themselves when they are in distress or hungry and essentially begin to express themselves. As they grow they learn to make sounds and imitate mommy and daddy, interact with others in their environment, and begin to develop language. Eyes begin to hold gaze and stare as well as starting to shift at midline. Their vision system begin to drive their bodies to actively explore their surroundings. Motor development begins with moving their heads and feeling the resistive pull of gravity to move against it. Arms and legs begin to move and kick as they prepare to explore their world. Motor development as they are able to move within a larger space results in rolling, sitting, standing, creeping, and walking. Their touch system hones it’s ability to localize and discriminate tactile experiences by locating an object by touch, manipulating toys/ objects/ textures, and moving about their space learning how their little bodies move onto each varying surface. Play skill development occurs with object manipulation, awareness of how their bodies move, and their ability to judge and navigate their space. Also children develop the ability to be independent with their learning and able to engage in imaginative play by themselves. A child’s body and brain continue to develop and mature through the exploratory process of their environment. It is an amazing process.
So how does technology fit into a child’s development under the age of 2? In moderation, technology can be another tool for your child to use. However, when it starts to limit a child from engaging in exploratory play then the screen time should be limited.
For additional reading the AAP has also published an article called “Replace screen time for children under 2 with activity that spark imagination” written in 2011 which provides some play ideas and self- play with out use of media.
Written by Michelle Cardone-Bunker OTR/L
Photo Credit http://www.metrolic.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/baby_photos_3.jpg