Last week, one of our staff members visited a school for children with special needs. How impressive! Everything was right….the heart beat of the staff, the facility, the parental support, EVERYTHING! In the discussion, as the Director led the Brainjogging staff member through the halls, the subject of iPads surfaced. “We have found that a specific phenotype individual experiences uncontrollable motor responses in the form of tics, increased oppositional defiance, repetitive behaviors such as flapping and jerking and unrelenting abnormal fear.”
Then, we entered an organized and structured classroom. The teacher was in front of the students, holding an iPad. A story was being read aloud via the iPad. There sat a student who was clearly phenotype #1, reacting to this screen media. Oh my! He was jerking and flapping. It was like repetitive involuntary reflexes!! The other two children were fine.
In this phenotype of children, we are finding that it may affect them by promoting what Daniel Goleman defines as an “amygdala hijacking.” It is an immediate and overwhelming response to a perceived threat. The child begins a habitual behavior to address the stimulus.
One thing we know – the TV today’s kids are watching is very different from decades ago. They are digital! Additionally, almost all screens are digital! It is a new type of media for human brains, without transitioning time. It takes decades and centuries to change our brains to adapt to new environmental input. Yet, our children today are seeing their textbooks, casual reading, televisions, computers, billboards, iPods, phones, virtually everything their eyes encounter are digital screens! Got the picutre? For some, it is the onset of tics or epilepsy. For others, parents may see an increase in agitation, angry outbursts, or defiant behavior. If any of these behaviors describe your child’s behavior, begin to chart it!
Parents can now become empowered! Remove the digital media (iPads, TV, video games, Wii, etc.) for two weeks, continuing to chart the behaviors. What information can be concluded from this data?
What can you do to alter these bad habits?
1. Get the technology out of the child’s bedroom. Computers, televisions and phones left in a bedroom are guarantees for disrupted sleep and difficult mornings. Centrally locate the computer so you can monitor your child’s use; have a “curfew” for the phone – 30 minutes before lights out.
2. No longer allow for UNLIMITED ACCESS. Provide technology as currency. Are chores done? Homework completed? Have you Brainjogged? If yes, then allow for some limited screen time. Children need a break from their screens. As a parent, you also have control over when the device is allowed to access wireless Internet connection. Have it turn on and off at a certain hour of the day.
3. Out of sight, out of mind. Cover the TV when it’s off; charge the phones and iPods when not in use. Get your child outside and playing. The more they are involved in physical activity, the more likely they are to be healthy and happy!
These are three easy ways to begin monitoring your child’s screen time. Access a privilege not a right. As a parent, you are caring for your child’s brain! It’s as important as buckling their seatbelt, giving them good food, and tucking them in at night. Your job is to keep them safe, so keep them safe!