“Children surrounded by fast-paced visual stimuli (TV, videos, computer games) at the expense of face-to-face adult modeling, interactive language, reflective problem- solving, creative play, and sustained attention may be expected to arrive at school unprepared for academic learning—and to fall farther behind and become increasingly “unmotivated” as the years go by.”
― Jane M. Healy, Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It
I go out to the waiting room to greet young Jana, age five, a kindergarten child who is coming in for an assessment because her school thinks she is having trouble “paying attention.”
“Hi Jana, “I say in the upbeat style that usually gets kids engaged and comfortable.
Jana does not look up. Her iPad is far more captivating than saying hello to this new person. To Jana I don’t exist. The mom tries to get Jana to say hello, but she’s not budging for her either.
We go back and I offer Jana some toys (old school ones in a box – you know, different human figures animals, cars and trucks) that she shows no interest in playing. Again, her iPad is holding her riveted.
(I flash on Gollum in Lord of the Rings – ”My precious, my precious,” as he would stroke the ring. I think Jana may start doing the same the same with the iPad – ‘My precious…my precious.’)
Jana’s mom, Beth, starts talking about Jana’s focusing difficulties. She says, “I worry that it’s all the screens. She gets in the car and the TV is on the seat panels. She’ can’t even go three minutes without it on. When we get to the restaurant, she demands the iPad. We give it to her – maybe it’s helping her visual skills, I don’t know. At night she never wants to plays even though we try and play games with her. When kids come over all they want to do is have iPads. They really don’t play with each other. The school thinks we need to see a doctor to consider medication for her focusing.”
I don’t want to sound like an old head, but Jane Healy hit it on the head in the above quote. (Keep in mind Jane Healy wrote Endangered Minds in 1999.)
There is a skill to greeting someone in the waiting room. There is a skill to playing with toys or interacting in a restaurant. These skills need development and practice.
If we don’t give kids a chance to practice these skills, the skills will not develop.
Simple as that.
Create “No Screen Zone” blocks of time.
Be firm. Be brave.