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The ADHD test: What it involves

Your child’s teacher has asked for a meeting and possibly she shares information that confirms what you may or may not have noticed at home. This usually revolves around your child’s behaviour in school and terms such as ‘distractible’, ‘disruptive’, ‘inattentive’, ‘difficulty completing tasks’, ‘daydreaming’, ‘social problems’ and more will pepper the conversation.  Often the suggestion is made that he or she be tested for ADHD.  The reason is that this might provide a diagnosis of the problem, leading to the usual medications for the mental disorder.   But what is this ‘ADHD test’?  How does one test for this condition and what procedures are followed?

 

The truth is that there is no test for ADHD.  There are no objective diagnostic criteria for ADHD – no physical symptoms and no neurological signs.  Neither is there a blood test that can give markers for a possible ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’ or brain scan findings.  In fact, there are no physical or psychological tests that can be done to verify that a child has ADHD. 

 

What is used is mere observation of behaviours in a consulting room, contents of a questionnaire filled in by teachers and parents, and perhaps a report from a psychologist noting inattentive behaviour, poor sequential memory and restlessness during an intelligence test, tests of academic standing or personality test. None of the latter test results can be used to diagnose ADHD.   In other words, it is only the presence of behavioural symptoms of ADHD that constitute the ‘test’.  One of the most popular checklists used for diagnosis is called the Revised Conners Questionnaire.

 

The symptoms are listed in the publication used by psychiatrists for diagnostic purposes and known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th edition (DSM-5).  If the child shows about 6 of the behaviours listed for either hyperactivity/impulsivity or inattentiveness and these have persisted for at least 6 months, the diagnosis of ADHD can be made.  The Conner’s Questionnaire consists basically of a variation of the traits listed in the DSM-5.

 

Because it is common for children to behave well in a doctor’s office, many examining doctors don’t see the signs of ADHD during the brief consultation you are given.  Instead, doctors prescribing the drugs used to treat ADHD may do so on the grounds of reports from teachers and parents.  This is startling to consider because the doctor is supposed to then treat a presumed disease or disorder with brain-altering drugs without having seen any sign of it.

 

Get a second opinion  

 

It isn’t extreme to suggest that parents seek out a second opinion regarding the reasons for a child’s behaviours and difficulties.    While drugs might provide a welcome relief for all concerned, including an extremely hyperactive child, they are only treating the symptoms.  The real, underlying reasons for the observed behaviours and the distressing symptoms suffered by the child may go unnoticed and untreated and continue to plague the child for years to come.  Indeed, many continue into adulthood with stubborn challenges that impede the realization of their potential and happiness.

 

Many professionals are legitimately concerned that ADHD has become a ‘catch all’ diagnosis.  Making it more difficult is the truth that there is no actual test to prove that the condition exists in a particular child.  Because of this, one can’t be surprised that the quick fix has been to rely on medications such as Ritalin and other drugs to take care of the problem.  While they may be helpful in the course of treatment of the real causes, drugs have become an overused starting place.

 

Professionals who take the time and trouble to explore all the possible underlying reasons for inappropriate and maladaptive behaviours usually cast their nets wide.  Amongst other possible offenders giving rise to ‘ADHD look-alike’ behaviours are:

 

  • Food and dietary issues, including allergies and intolerances
  • Unhealthy digestive systems, affecting brain function
  • Family dynamics, including parenting techniques
  • Delays in brain development needing correction
  • Irregular functioning of certain neurological systems needed to support behaviour and learning
  • Neurological and physiological impairment due to pollutants or toxins
  • Stress and other emotional factors
  • Academic factors, including academic deficits or extremely high intelligence

 

Choices available to parents

 

Many parents are ready to accept that their child may have ADHD but are not willing to give them drugs.  This is understandable and commendable but it doesn’t help to ignore the condition.  These days, many strides are being made in the identification and treatment of those behaviours making life difficult for families.

 

Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) practitioners offer an holistic evaluation of such children (and older individuals).  Very often we do identify the real cause – and with the cooperation of the family, are able to offer substantial help through a home-based treatment plan.  This means that there aren’t weekly (and expensive) visits to a therapist but the family manages the programme in their own homes at times convenient for them.

 

For more information about our services and a list of practitioners available around the country, visit the website www.ilt.co.za

 

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Bread and ADHD behaviours

Is bread really the staff of life for all people?    The answer is almost certainly that it might have been once but in our modern times, the preservatives that are used to keep it fresh for longer might be underlying the difficult behaviours associated with ADHD.

 

These days there is a lot written about how diet affects learning and behaviour.  Some families try to avoid certain foods – sugar and highly coloured foods are examples.  But if you have a child who is struggling with really challenging mood swings, fatigue, defiant attitudes, eczema, asthma, poor progress at school, perhaps you need to look more closely at bread.

 

One of the major preservatives in bread is Proprionate.  If you take this post seriously and read the labels on the breads your family eats daily, you’ll see that it is added to virtually all commercially available bread and rolls.  The official name is Calcium Proprionate and it is a mould inhibitor, also found in various cheeses. The food scientists claim that it is harmless and they base this opinion on the fact that it occurs naturally in the human body.  That may be so, but there is limited evidence as to how much is tolerated by our body and how high doses may affect the body.

 

Many South African families rely on bread for meals and snacks throughout the day.  Breakfast, school lunches and afternoon snacks are often based on bread.  It is an easy, relatively cheap and quick hunger satisfier.  But this high intake of bread is accompanied by a high intake of proprionate.

 

One person who realised the link between proprionate and a myriad of mental and health problems is Sue Dengate.  She is an Australian researcher and writer who spent years trying to understand the underlying reasons for her own children’s extreme behaviour and learning challenges.  Her efforts have resulted in her founding the FAILSAFE eating approach which is widely followed in Australia and elsewhere.  Her website is a font of knowledge about how intolerances to food and food additives – including proprionate – affect both brain and body.

 

For example, she mentions how some breastfed babies stopped their constant screaming when their mothers switched to preservative-free bread; how children were able to first reduce and then stop their ADHD medication after giving up preserved bread, even how high-functioning adults suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome regained their energy after excluding certain breads.

 

Bread preservative may not be the only additive causing problems but this post focuses on it because it is probably the additive eaten most often by people who think they are eating a healthy diet.  So many of us can cope with preservatives, colourants and flavourants but that isn’t an argument for closing our minds to the possibility that the challenging ADHD-type behaviours that we struggle with daily might be caused by or at least worsened by modern foods. The children that we’re focusing on are more vulnerable to many of the potential offenders found in our environment, including foods. The fact that other children are not affected by these things is not an excuse to ignore the possibility that one or many more potential offenders are affecting the brain, immune system and other bodily systems in an ‘ADHD’ child.

 

So what bread can be eaten?  I don’t have a list of breads free of Calcium Proprionate but recently found a brand at Pick ‘n Pay that was free of it.  Otherwise, ciabatta is a bread that is proprionate free.  The reason is that the preservative would kill the micro-organisms that produce the gas that form the holes in the bread.   Artisanal breads available at the increasingly popular farmer’s markets may also be free of preservatives but you would be wise to check on this before buying.  Investing in a bread making machine would be another option. 

 

For more information about Sue Dengate’s amazing work, and full instructions as to how to follow her FAILSAFE diet, visit her website at www.fedup.com.au

 

Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) tries hard to ensure that every possible avenue is explored when unravelling the causes of learning difficulties and puzzling behaviours.  You might be interested in learning more by taking our Parent’s course, which aims to share with parents many of the reasons why your child is not thriving in and out of school.  Find out more about this correspondence course by writing to us at info@ilt.co.za.  We are pleased to offer the course at a special parent’s discount for the months of July and August.

 

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Reasons why moving in a classroom helps learning

Even though we know a lot more these days about how the brain develops and how it functions, many teachers lack useful knowledge about the role of movement in learning.  Movement is responsible for developing the brain in the first place (through the primary reflexive movements) and remains central to efficient learning during the early years of growth and schooling.  Without knowing how to recognise signs that a child may have signs of neurodevelopmental problems (meaning that the nervous system with all its component parts), we concentrate rather on the psychological problems of the child, or the socio-economic environment. 

 

A far better approach would be to ask the question, does the child have the equipment she needs to succeed at the educational level asked of her and the methods imposed on her?

 

The answer is related to the fact that there is often a physical basis for learning disabilities.  Not physical in the sense of body growth or health – often children’s physical development is good, yet the foundations on which learning is built and made strong are weak.  This results in them struggling to succeed at school.  Indeed, some do succeed, but they have to put so much extra effort into their learning and performing.  This can continue until adulthood. How many of you know of a colleague who is really good at what he or she does, but pays the price through extreme fatigue at the end of every workday?

 

So the approach of Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) is to evaluate a child for possible neurodevelopmental delays and other adverse conditions arising from the environment and then helping them.  The tools used are largely movement activities.

 

While this works for children with learning disabilities or learning difficulties, using movement in the course of learning can benefit all children.

 

Here are three evidence based, very sound reasons why children can thrive in a classroom where the teacher introduces regular periods for a little movement:

 

  1. Movement helps to increase learner interest, motivation (Vazou et al., 2012), and learning (Braniff, 2011).
  2. Movement improves content knowledge, skills, and test scores in core subjects such as mathematics and reading fluency (Adams-Blair & Oliver, 2011; Erwin, Fedewa, & Ahn, 2013; Browning et al., 2014).
  3. Movement may help children meet the recommendation to complete the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

 

Do consider the significance of these research results.  It is difficult to introduce movement into crowded classrooms, to avoid children becoming disruptive and finding it difficult afterwards to settle down.  The key is to have short, quick ‘movement moments’ as an integral part of the school day from the lowest grades.  This teaches the children that these are part of school and they become so used to it that they don’t see it as an opportunity to get out of hand.

 

In future posts, I’ll be including some ideas for short ‘movement moments’.  If you would like to learn more, consider enrolling for our Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) courses.  They are accredited with SACE so will earn you CPTD points while you’re enhancing your knowledge and skills.  Read more on www.ilt.co.za or write to us at info@ilt.co.za.

 

References

 

Adams-Blair H., Oliver G. (2011). Daily classroom movement: Physical activity integration into the classroom. International Journal of Health, Wellness, & Society, 1 (3), 147–154.

Braniff C. (2011). Perceptions of an active classroom: Exploration of movement and collaboration with fourth grade students. Networks: An On-line Journal for Teacher Research, 13 (1).

Browning C., Edson A.J., Kimani P., Aslan-Tutak F. (2014). Mathematical content knowledge for teaching elementary mathematics: A focus on geometry and measurement. Mathematics Enthusiast, 11 (2), 333–383.

Erwin H., Fedewa A., Ahn S. (2013). Student academic performance outcomes of a classroom physical activity intervention: A pilot study. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 5 (2), 109–124.

Vazou S., Gavrilou P., Mamalaki E., Papanastasiou A., Sioumala N. (2012). Does integrating physical activity in the elementary school classroom influence academic motivation? International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10 (4), 251–263.

 

 

What teachers can do about learning difficulties

People worldwide share the belief that education is important for children. Academic achievement is considered to be a key to future economic stability and personal success in life. Yet, in spite of school curricula being designed to be achievable to the average learner, too many children and youths are not able to meet the learning targets set by their teachers and education authorities. These children are not necessarily amongst those who have a mental or physical problem that can be seen to interfere with their learning. Neither are many of them disadvantaged in terms of geographic location, poverty, poor home circumstances and poor teaching. So what is missing? Why are these children having difficulties and showing fairly commonly observed symptoms such as

  • Hyperactivity
  • Problems with gross motor skills
  • Memory deficits
  • Disorganization – always losing equipment and possessions
  • Concentration problems
  • Inability to complete tasks in time
  • Difficulty understanding concepts
  • The list goes on and on ….

 

These behaviours may lead to some or other diagnosis with the result that the child is labelled.  We hear about Dyspraxia, Dyslexia and many other words starting with ‘dys’, which signifies a supposed learning disability.  Here are some definitions of the most frequently used labels:

Dyspraxia: difficulty coordinating movements

Dyslexia: difficulties with language, such as reading, writing or spelling

Dysgraphia: difficulties with writing, spelling, handwriting, putting thoughts on paper

Dyscalculia: difficulty learning and understanding how to use numbers

Dysphasia: difficulties with speaking and/or understanding language

And then, of course, we have Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

 

Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) dislikes the use of labels because they result in the label being treated while sight is lost of the child who carries the label. It works like this: A teacher has difficulty in getting a child to remain in her chair and the constant movement suggests to her that the child is hyperactive.  The parents are asked to consult a medical doctor. The doctor listens to the complaints and perhaps observes the child’s restlessness in the consulting room. A diagnosis of ADHD is made and a prescription for a drug that is recommended for this disorder is promptly written.

 

The usual approaches recommended to ‘treat’ the labels don’t always help.  If we don’t understand the real nature and cause of a learning or behaviour problem then all we are doing is treating the symptoms shown by the child.  This is the same as taking a headache pil: it certainly may help to relieve the pain we call ‘a headache’ but doesn’t do anything about getting rid of what may be causing it in the first place.

Too often we label these symptoms and lose sight of what could be an underlying cause of these symptomatic behaviours.  If the underlying cause of a child’s problem is misdiagnosed, families may try many ‘cures’ for a disease, disorder or condition that their child doesn’t actually have.

 

Make no mistake – some children do struggle with aspects of learning and sometimes the label might be accurate.  Children with ‘real’ ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and so on need specialized help in the particular area of difficulty.   ILT has, however, had many years of experience in unravelling the root causes of the symptoms shown by many children.  In most cases, the disabilities are caused by neurodevelopmental delays, meaning that they have a brain area that hasn’t developed fully.  In many other cases, the brain is unable to function optimally because of the influence of environmental factors.  If these are addressed, the symptoms sometimes disappear or at least diminish considerably.  Neuroscience has proved that the brain is ‘plastic’, meaning that it can change, grow and be adapted continually.  This knowledge means that we can restructure the brain, encourage the growth of new brain cells, stimulate the development of new neural pathways.

 

With this knowledge, why resort to only the use of medication or remedial teaching methods to try and find ways of coping with the symptoms of various disorders?  Why not learn how to correctly identify possible causes of these disorders?  Why not be able to refer to professionals who might be better able to help the child at a fundamental level?

 

Better still, teachers at the pre- or early primary school level should have knowledge of how to prevent neurodevelopmental problems from interfering with school progress.

 

One way of ensuring that the brain has developed to the point that a child is learning ready, is to incorporate special movement programmes into the pre-school and Grade 1.

 

The role of movement in brain development

 

Research over the last few decades has convinced us that movement is crucial to the organization of our neurological system (i.e. the brain and other parts of the central nervous system).  A well organized nervous system that has well developed neural networks will function efficiently and effortlessly.  Think of a child whose behaviour is ‘scattered’. He may be unable to sit still or listen in order to understand.  He reacts before thinking and seems aimless in what he does. Even when playing, he seems to prefer running around the playground rather than take part in more organized or purposeful games.  This kind of disorganized behaviour is a reflection of a disorganized neural network.  His ‘brain wiring’ hasn’t made the connections needed for purposeful, deliberate, productive thinking and behaviour.  So often it is possible to see that the brain needs help in becoming more efficiently ‘wired’.  He doesn’t have ADHD.  He is in need of neurological organization that can happen if he is given certain movements to do that replicate those he should have done in infancy.

 

The discovery of the importance of movement has lent a great deal of support to the importance of allowing babies to move freely during infancy.  Babies who are strapped to their mother’s backs for too long, or who are confined to baby seats, car seats, walking rings and so on are not able to move as they should. This can interfere with good brain development.  Babies who are left passively lying in a cot without stimulation to encourage movement of the head, eyes and body are also at a disadvantage. We believe today that the best playground for a baby is a rug spread out over open floor spaces.

 

Would you like to learn more about this? ILT offers training courses to teachers especially to help equip them with knowledge of what the brain needs to develop and function properly.

 

Our distance courses are very popular, as busy teachers don’t have to spend days away from work and home and do not incur travelling or accommodation costs.

 

In addition, no-one needs to fear failure on our courses. We try to help all trainees as much as is needed to ensure all arrive at a deep understanding of the content. For those courses which include movement activities, we also work hard at helping you feel confident in using the activities correctly in order to help individual children as well as groups.

 

You can read about our ILT 1 course on the website www.ilt.co.za or write to us for information at info@ilt.co.za.. This course is suitable for teachers at all levels – from preschool through to High school.

 

Here is some information about a new course that we have put together – mainly for preschools and teachers in Grades 1 and 2:

 

Readiness to Learn: A practical, ready to use programme to develop learning readiness in children aged 4 – 8.

 

This course is aimed at helping classroom teachers or teaching assistants address or prevent learning difficulties in pre-school or early primary school.  The course consists of two sections: 

  • Section 1 provides important theory about the reasons why children may enter school without being ready to learn and explains how these may be addressed.
  • Section 2 provides a 30 week programme of daily activities designed to help children achieve learning readiness. The handbook contains guidelines for the use of the activity programme, a list of very simple equipment that will be needed and the programme to be followed.  The daily activities require 15 – 20 minutes per day.

 

All course materials are sent electronically, so can be downloaded to your computer.

A certificate is issued on successful completion of the course.

 

The cost of the course is R2000 all-inclusive.

 

Useful ‘movement moments’ for Primary School classrooms

 

These movements appeared in the Teacher’s Net Gazette, June 2017, Vol 14 No 2 and were suggested by Leah Davies, M.Ed.

 

In the last post, the benefit of planning short ‘movement moments’ during lessons was shared.  Here we are sharing some ideas for the types of activities that may  both children and teachers to create classrooms with a good learning atmosphere.

 

When children are able to engage in some physical activity during the school day, it helps them to raise their energy levels and maintain focus on their work.  In addition, we hear from teachers around the world that introducing short activities and other opportunities to move helps to improve behaviour.  It really is worth trying.

 

You will want to make sure that the activities you choose are age-appropriate for your learners, that all the children are involved and that they enjoy them.  Try a variety of activities and then make a note of the most popular.  They can become a regular feature of your classroom.

 

  1. Whenever the learners show restlessness, have them stand and so some stretching and other exercises. They can stretch slowly, do arm circles, sway slowly from side to side, touch their toes, hop, jump and run on the spot.
  2. When children are learning to count, have them march in place as they count in 2’s, 5’s and so on. They can march in place as they recite the alphabet, spell out words, say their multiplication tables and so on.
  3. Divide the class into two groups (e.g. boys and girls, or otherwise those on the left side of the class versus those on the right). Ask the children to follow you as you run on the spot.  When you stop, see which group of children stops first and name them (“The boys stopped first!”).  Then begin to run again, stop running and comment on which group was the first to stop.  If you don’t want to run yourself, then tell them to run while you continue to clap your hands.  When you stop clapping, they stop running.
  4. Have children do two things at once – e.g. tap their heads and rub their stomachs; clap their hands and stand on one foot; snap their fingers and nod their heads; snap their fingers while they do jumping jacks.
  5. Let them do crossover exercises. They can raise their left foot behind their bodies then touch it with their right hand; they raise their left knee and touch it with their right elbow; they can jump and while in the air, cross their right foot over their left ankle, landing on crossed feet. They reverse the cross on the following jump and continue in this way.  Make sure very young children are able to do this difficult series of jumps – you don’t want them falling!
  6. Ask the children to hold one or two thumbs at eye level. Have them move their thumb up and down with their eyes tracking the movement.  Then name various numbers or letters and have the children make one at a time with their thumb as their eyes trace the movement.  Or ask them to make large letters or numbers in the air with their index finger.
  7. Have the children choose a nearby partner. Have one child slowly print a spelling word on his/her partner’s back. The partner guesses which word was printed. They take turns doing this.  Or you can call out the word to be printed and the child who feels the word on his/her back has to say whether or not it was spelled correctly.
  8. Sing or say “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” as follows:

“Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.

Eyes and ears and mouth and nose.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.”

The children touch the body part as it is named.  You can substitute names of different body parts for the third line, such as, “neck and hips and knees and cheeks.”  Start off slowly and increase speed as you sing/say it over and over.

  1. Play “Simon says.” Stand at the front of the class and give commands.  Carry out all of the commands but tell the children to obey only the ones preceded by the words “Simon says.”  For example, if you say “Simon says: hands on your hips,” everyone does it.  But if you say “Run in place,” no one but you should be running.  A variation is to say “Do this” or “Do that.”  “Do this” means that the children should move like you are moving, while “Do that” means they stand motionless.  Those who do not listen and move at the wrong time must sit down and wait a turn before playing again.
  2. Play “I spy.” Explain that when you say, “I spy,” every child needs to stop what he/she is doing, listen, and respond with “What do you spy?”  You respond with “I spy children dancing in one place,” or “I spy a rock star silently playing a guitar.”  The children act out that idea until you say, “I spy.” Then all of them stop what they are doing and again respond with “What do you spy?”   Ideas include “I spy children waving their arms,” or “I spy children standing on one leg with their eyes closed.”  After playing for a little while, say “I spy learners sitting down quietly.”

 

Of course, you can choose children to be the leaders of these activities, giving you a little time to sit back and observe.

 

If you would like to learn more about the value of movement and understand the types of movements that are so important for brain development and function, you might want to consider a course with Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT).  Read more about this on the website www.ilt.co.za or write to us at info@ilt.co.za.

 

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Your child and electronic devices

Most parents are aware of the debate raging around the pros and cons of allowing children use of electronic devices, including cell phones, tablets, computers, electronic games, TV and so on.  Many schools are encouraging this by prescribing tablets for use in and out of foundation phase classrooms.  Is all the negative hype exaggerated or is there a realistic need for limiting time spent with technology?  Let’s have a look at some evidence relating to this difficult question.

 

The arguments against young children being allowed early access to devices[1] centre around possibly negative consequences for their neurological development.  The early years see rapid brain growth which is fueled by stimulation from the environment.  Overexposure to devices has been linked to intellectual delays, impaired learning, decreased concentration and memory, executive functioning and decreased ability to self-regulate (leading to lowered emotional control as seen in response to temper tantrums). In addition, too much time spent sitting with devices leads to less time engaged in physical movement, which can affect development as well.

 

Secondary effects also occur, such as sleep deprivation in children who are allowed devices in their bedrooms, addiction to technology and mental disturbances such as aggression, depression, problem behaviours and more.

 

Then there is the question of radiation emission.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) published a cautionary warning in 2011 against young children’s use of cell phones and other wireless devices because of the possibility of the emissions being carcinogenic.  In 2013 a researcher from Toronto’s School of Public Health recommended that, based on newer research, radio frequency exposure should be regarded as a probable carcinogen.

 

Effects on family life

Some families labour under the misconception that technology brings the family closer together. This can be true of families who have members living far apart: Skype, Facebook,  Whatsapp, Messaging and other apps make it possible to maintain relationships.  But what of the daily life of a family who lives together?

 

Some families are being driven apart by a wide emotional gulf between parents and children. This happens when each member is preoccupied by their phones, TVs or computers; unable to resist almost constant checking of a device to see what is happening in the world so that they don’t miss out on anything.  There is evidence to show that internet use reduces the time parents and children spend together[2].  Another study found that teenagers who spend more time playing on the computer (not for homework) or watching TV were less attached to their parents than youngsters whose time in front of screens is restricted.[3]  The key seems to be the reason for using the Internet.  While online gaming seems to hurt parent-child relationships, using the Internet to study or research homework topics does not.

 

The reason for the negative effect on family life is simple.  Interactive, amusement-based technologies and social media does away with the need for interaction with the family.  Gaming and life beyond the home with friends and other personalities is very seductive.  Children retreat to their own spaces to engage with digital entertainment so shared time with parents is lost.  Even if the family is present, members are ignored when the child concentrates on the device.

 

Adults add to this by being equally obsessed by the possibilities presented by the Internet.  Some claim that being able to work at home in the evenings gives them more time with their families but this is not true.  Time spent at home on the Internet and phones is not time spent with quality family interaction.  One academic[4] finds a generation of children who often have to cope with parents ‘who are close, tantalizingly so, but mentally elsewhere.’  In the words of one child: “My parents are always on their computers and on their cell phones …It’s very, very frustrating and I get lonely inside.”

 

All caregivers, be they parents, grandparents, teachers and others, need to consider that children’s brains need parental involvement to develop.  How children are treated will determine who they become and how they will develop.  Nature needs nurture so leaving children for hours at a time in front of the TV are prey to what amounts to under-stimulation that can adversely affect their brain development.

 

Children with healthy attachment to parents are better able to regulate their emotions, score better on measures of intelligence and academically and have higher self-esteem than children who are less attached.  Behaviour problems are fewer, depression is less common and school achievement is higher. Drug abuse is less and children from close families seem to have the will to venture into and take on the world.

 

Don’t be misled by cultural perceptions that portray hi-tech children as competent, happy and successful.  The truth is that many are struggling emotionally and socially.

 

Impact on education

Those children who use devices to help with schoolwork show benefit.   But research shows that time spent on video games, online gaming, watching TV, texting and engaging in social networks hinders school success.  High school learners tend to spend more time playing with their gadgets than they do actually attending school, studying and doing homework.

 

The bottom line is that, unless exposure time is strictly limited, the potential overuse of screen and phone technologies, which are actually entertainment providers, threatens children’s connection to family, academic effort and other important activities.  In very young children, added to this can be the danger of developmental delay, leading to learning  and behaviour problems. 

 

Considering that we live in a technological age, it is important that children do learn how to use these devices.  The problem is not their use of technology but it is their overuse of entertainment technologies that have the potential to disrupt the experiences that create a strong mind and a happy, successful life.[5]

 

Many professionals believe that children under the age of 2 years should not be allowed any access at all to electronic devices; 2-5 year olds should not spend more than one hour a day on devices and older children and youths restrict use to 2 hours per day.

 

This is a subject definitely worth thinking very seriously about – and also considering your role in modelling behaviour.  If you spend every available moment at home or in public places on your devices, you can’t expect your children not to follow suit.  You may excuse your obsession by saying that you need to stay in touch for business purposes but this is usually another of the many modern myths that have been created around technology.

[1] www.huffintonpost.com/cris-rowan/10-reasons-why-handheld-devices-should-be-banned

[2] Mesch, G.S. & Talmud, I. 2010. Wired youth: The social world of adolescence in the information age. Routledge, p.31.

[3] Richards, R., McGee, R., Williams, S.M, Welch, D & Hancox, R.J. 2010. Adolescent screen time and attachment to parents and peers. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 164(3), 258-262.

[4] Turkle, S. 2011. Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books, p.267.

[5] Dr Richard Freed, 2015. Wired child: Reclaiming childhood in a digital age.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

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