By Melissa Tweedie, Head Foundation phase
I have loved being at home with my family and animals during the holidays. It has given me time to reflect and count the many blessings of my childhood which I have instilled in my own children. Reminiscing about the good old days of climbing trees, building forts, skateboarding, and playing charades to name but a few. We have never been a tech dependent family (my children were only allowed phones when they turned 13 years old) and I realized how fortunate I am that my children have grown up without the hyper-stimulation of the digital world.
While most adults are pursuing New Year’s resolutions and possibly going on detox diets, I cannot help but think of a detox of a different kind for our precious children… a digital detox. A detox that encourages children to unplug and spend more time being “bored”. Most children have got used to the notion that they need to be perpetually stimulated. But that is not true, the healthiest skill that children can develop is to learn to just sit and “be”. Constructive boredom in children is essential to their mental and emotional development. A constructively bored child will eventually turn to a book, pull out the paints and create, build blocks/lego or develop a new skill like sewing or knitting.
Research shows that play-based activities promote the deepest kind of learning by encouraging children to become self-directed and explore, develop curiosity, and solve their own problems.
Screen time can hyper-stimulate children and create ‘mood dysregulation’. A screen-tethered, mood-dysregulated child can look like a child who is moody and throws fits, who has attention problems and cannot focus – and who can get aggressive when their devices are taken away.
It is recommended no interactive screens before the age of ten, rather let your child’s brain develop first; let them develop their sense of active imagination and their ability to focus and to deal with boredom before hyper-stimulating them. Parents need to be careful and cautious as to what age they expose children to a screen. The older, the better: the more developed the frontal cortex (which is the executive functioning part of the brain and relates to impulse control), the better equipped the young person will be to handle the technology.
I am a firm believer in ‘baby steps” and that we should take one day at a time. I think that if children have one digital fee day per week or parents limit digital time daily, it will make a world of difference to promoting happier, healthier children in 2021.