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Have you ever observed kids in a restaurant?  Very probably, one or more of them are attached to a screen device of some type and they are like zombies. There is no social interaction as such, unless you count the odd grunt aimed at their parents. Why is this a problem?

The problem exists and will not go away!

Did you know that the average ten year old in the UK has access to at least five screen devices? These will range from TV, computer, video games, iPad, cell phone and so on. So, why is this a problem? There is no reason to think that the figures for the USA are significantly different.

Research studies published two years ago in the Journal of Pediatrics show that children who are spending an excessive amount of time staring at these screen devices are twice as likely to encounter attention problems later on.  Actually, the same statistic applies to adults because they are just as likely to suffer from inattention and other related problems.

What exactly are these children exposed to?

The problem is that the range of fast moving images and frenetic action encourages the release of the dopamine neurotransmitter which we can also refer to as the ‘reward’ one.  Fast action, faster reaction and you get extra points and a prize. What could be better for motivation?

Actually it is the worst possible way of encouraging motivation because the child’s thought processes are not being allowed to grow in a normal, ordered and developmental way.

That is why some of these kids are going to have severe problems in paying attention in school. It is here that all these deficiencies will come to light and the teacher’s response is to ask the parents to have the child tested for ADHD!  That may of course be the reason but it may not.

This is why these studies are so controversial because they do not actually prove that these electronic devoice and the fast moving images are really the cause of attention disorders. They may well be but the actual evidence to clinch this is not forthcoming.

The real world is different

Did you know that the popular movie called Power Pop Girls Movie has actually got a restricted viewing on the back of the DVD? It says ‘PG– Non stop frenetic animated action’.

This sort of frenetic action with incredibly fast scene changes is completely different to what the kids will experience in the real world and especially in the classroom. They will miss their toys there and they really do have to concentrate for longer and their attention span has to be more efficient.

How to get your child back on track

The ideal thing would be to severely limit the use of all these electronic devices and then monitor the use of any that have managed to get into the child’s hands. Here are some suggestions so that your child is at minimum risk of developing what could be a severe handicap. It also makes good sense and will stand the child in good stead for the rest of his or her life.

1.     Think twice before giving these devices as gifts.

2.     Limit their use and encourage reading with either traditional books or with an e-book reader. The latter by the way is an excellent gift.

3.     Reading should be done together so that interaction and questions can all be followed through. This is excellent training for the real world because fast rewards for fast finger action just does not happen.

4.     Fast and frenetic action is likely to lead to hyperactivity and impulsivity. Try to get your kid on to healthier games like sport and exercise in the open air or at least on a Wii at home if the weather is bad.

5.     Limit TV time to just one hour a day and monitor what is being watched. It is now estimated that by the age of seven, a child will have spent one year of his short life watching TV!

6.     Insist on a bedtime routine which means that all electronic devices are switched off well before as the light from the screens can disturb the wake sleep cycle in a child. So it just makes good sense to do that.

7.     Get into a habit of bedside reading so that reading is always encouraged and rewarded.

When we think about it, we are helping the child to develop his thought processing which is going to so important in later life. It is alarming to note that the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the amount of time children spend in front of the TV can be up to seven hours a day. That represents an increase of 20% over the last five years.  Time to get the e-book reader out and read a story together.

 

Robert Locke MBE is an award winning author and has written extensively on ADHD and related child health problems. You can visit this page on ADHD natural treatment to find out more.

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