Anyone else notice that pacifier prices have skyrocketed lately?!
Gone are the days where a pack of three can be purchased for $5.49. Today’s pacifiers can burn a hole through your pocket to the sum of hundreds of dollars. They’ve also re branded so that now they’re called... tablets. Your child’s new pacifier (a.k.a. tablet) no longer resembles its predecessors. Though at times both share the common goal of pacifying, soothing, and relaxing your screaming child-- this gadget has a touch screen, a charger, and sets off a whole new acute level of panic when it is misplaced or lost.
We get it, we all do -- stick a touch screen in front of your child and you may get seven minutes of quiet to whip up some fish sticks for dinner. You may even get a chance to sneak off to the bathroom in peace. However, before you accept Steve Jobs as your lord and savior, you may want to finish reading this blog.
Here’s the inherently positive (because we are positive tablets are here to stay)--
We would not dare to minimize the aforementioned visit-to-the-bathroom-in-peace time. Preserving parental sanity is of utmost importance. As parents, we all need to acknowledge that there are times when you just need a pause button on the chaos of daily living. Tablets the world over are providing much needed moments of respite. These moments energize parents-- they give parents strength to continue being the good enough parent you all strive to be.
Who are we to say anything that will deprive your child of their happiness via Peppa Pig and her “muddy puddles”?!
Additionally, when used correctly, tablets and other electronic screen-based devices provide access to a wealth of educational programs and apps. As a parent, you can compliment your child’s preschool curriculum with quality educational programs available at your fingertips (quite literally). Introduce your children to Duolingo Kids and they may be speaking French before they are potty trained. #amiright?! However, before your child starts crying bilingually (“je veux mon iPad!”), here are some points you may want to consider.
Trigger warning: The next paragraph contains facts and figures. If you’re too tired for that at the moment just read the one line summary and skip to the next paragraph.
tl;dr next paragraph - children’s use of excessive electronics turns them into zombies.
There are findings that indicate physiological, psycho-social and emotional differences between children who use screens excessively and those who have limited exposure. The National Institute of Health conducted an Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study
where they found two important findings:
MRI scans on adolescents who reported using tablets for seven or more hours a day. The scan shows differences in the brain imaging of these children. You may say to yourself, my child does not use his/her tablet that much. The same study indicated lower scores on exams aimed at measuring thinking and language skills of those who use these devices for two hours or more. Furthermore, a recent study showed a correlation between the use of electronic devices at night and sleep disturbances. The sleep disturbances are attributed to the blue light emitted from the screen that is known to suppress melatonin, a vital hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Poor sleep is associated with lower concentration levels and poor mood regulation. Furthermore, serotonin, the hormone associated with healthy mood regulation and calm is triggered by sunlight. Children who spend many hours using tablets are not playing outside enough and are not getting the much needed sunlight. Between the serotonin and melatonin deficiencies, it is no wonder some children are having difficulty with levels of energy and concentration.
(I would want to research this info more thoroughly to ensure the science is correct - your source says melatonin for both though I know it’s the interplay between serotonin and melatonin).
Furthermore, children who use electronic devices excessively know how to address Siri and Alexa properly, however, they may be lacking in basic social skills. Communication isn’t limited to verbal skills. Human communication relies heavily on non-verbal cues, cues which can only be learned through human interaction. Your children may speak French by the time they are toilet trained but can they speak and understand emotions properly?!
It is 2019. screen time is part of our reality. Knowing the possible risks of excessive usage is helpful in setting up guidelines that will keep our children healthy. The American Academy of Pediatrics set out media guidelines that we hope you will find helpful.
Children under the age of 18 months should not have any screen time.
Screen Time for children 18-24 months should be fully monitored by parents to include high-quality media.
Children aged 2 to 5 years old should be watching less than an hour a day of high quality programs with full parental supervision. (insert footnote - reference)
Parenting is no child’s play - it is hard work! Setting boundaries and limits seems like a dying art form these days. The struggle is real! However, it may be worth trying to revive this skill through practice. There is no denying that tablets and touch screens have much to offer in terms of education. However, we can take an active role in choosing appropriate educational content. All that being said, if you are at your wit’s end with your little mischievous monster then who are we to say no to the blessed pacifier (even if it is Peppa Pig...again)?!
For all we know, maybe your child’s use of tablet provided the requisite time to sit down and read this post :)
Best of luck people!