IS TECHNOLOGY THE CAUSE OF MY CHILD’S DEVELOPMENTAL DELAY
is a question a lot of parents are asking in our modern world full of gadgets and devices. So many parents approach me after being told by their doctor or paediatrician that their child has a speech delay, is withdrawn socially, or is developmentally delayed. In some cases they are given an instant introduction to the concept that their child may be autistic. In a state of panic, the parents begin the process of finding some kind of help to understand what is happening with their child. That is usually the point at which devastated parents come to me for insight, assessment, evaluation or guidance. So why is technology the cause of so many problems.
As a professional involved daily in the childcare and parenting industry and with a history spanning 3 decades, I have definitely noticed an increase in the number of children I meet that could be categorized as ‘socially deficit’. Children develop at a different pace, this is true, but within a certain range. Outside of this range, then your child may be highlighted as being delayed, or deficient in one or maybe more than one category of their overall development.
In the majority of cases, although there are exceptions where something else may be going on with your child and where professional help is needed, there is a reasonable lifestyle and parenting reason why the child is delayed or not reaching expected levels of development.
The advice that the doctor gives you when they tell you that your child is delayed is often critical to the success of failure of your next steps but as a parent, you cannot rely on one source of input to ensure that you apply the right methods to help your child.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO NEXT
What is just as critical is the personal analysis you make of how you parent, what your child is exposed to and even how your family routines run day to day. Within that analysis must come the study of what technology your child is exposed to. Be sure that the earlier your child is interacting with technology, the earlier it’s effects will start to show.
A newborn baby is a social, emotional, communicating human being from the moment it is born. That’s when your responsibility to make healthy decisions about how you help your child develop starts. Don’t be mistaken, that a baby plopped in front of the tv in a baby chair is gaining anything useful at all from that exposure. The patterns of interaction you create from birth onwards are the foundations and building blocks of your child’s entire developmental future – no pressure!
One of the main questions that I now ask in any parenting session, is how much and how frequent and in what form, is the child’s exposure to technology. Unfortunately, in many cases, technology is taking us backwards and not forwards in our goal to raise our children well.
I will step back for a moment in time to my own childhood to demonstrate just how much has changed socially, as society as progressed technologically. As a child, I cannot remember ever being dependent on even a TV for my own entertainment. With two sisters, I had a ready-made and willing social group to keep me busy and occupied 24/7. A piece of chalk and tarmac were enough to occupy us for a whole day and if we ran out of chalk, then stones marked our hop scotch, and creative games, just as good as chalk.
Without technology, we were forced as children to invent, create, explore, discuss, experiment, share, problem solve, and even to experience boredom. We fought, and learned to settle disputes, and organise our time creatively and to the maximum, we talked until we were exhausted, exploring new vocabulary we picked up from anywhere, we grew up together bouncing our development off of each other so that we all progressed and developed. We still talk today about the silly games we played during those happy childhood summers.
Fast forward a few decades and it appears that our society cannot live without mobile phones, social media and time saving devices that in my opinion, often cost more time than they save. We have stopped communicating and started disconnecting from what is as essential as water – other people.
Forward another few decades and I can sadly see, that people won’t actually need other people at all, we will have machines for our every desire and we will have forgotten that the human race was designed to be a ‘pack animal’ species, learning and growing from one another, depending on one another and enjoying one another.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet and channels like Discovery etc, especially the exposure to knowledge that it provides, but used incorrectly, all forms of technology can have a devastating effect not only on our children’s lives and future, but on society as a whole.
If we raise a future generation of children that are socially challenged, verbally challenged, and emotionally challenged, then what good is all the knowledge in the world, as there will no longer be learning and sharing, only processing of information in a lonely, isolated manner.
So what can you do now, to kick start the positive and constructive future you want for your child? What can you do to reverse or correct the concerns that you have with a child who is not functioning at the same level as the other children in their age range?
From birth onwards your baby needs you to talk, smile, frown, laugh, play, and basically interact in any physical, emotional, and social/verbal way that you can as much as you can. This doesn’t stop when the child is growing, it should continue and be even more interactive as the child develops. Even if TV or media is educational in some form or other, it cannot be a substitute for total human interaction, no video or tv program can offer a child what is needed, it can supp
Exposure to TV, digital media such as Ipad’s, baby laptops, etc, especially those that are not educational in nature and require that the child is in isolated focus, one to one with that device. Anything that removes your child from the family society and puts them in isolation, should be dramatically reduced or totally avoided. TV’s, gadgets and devices in bedrooms is a strict NO.
Whole family interaction, by using non electronic games, (even simple games like hide and seek) have a surprisingly large range of developmental benefits), interaction with other children of similar and varying ages, stimulate communication in any form, with songs, dance, and even silence/listening and encourage a variety and range of different indoor and outdoor experiences that have a huge opportunity for learning.
Children’s first teacher is the parent, remember that your child will model the behaviour that you show them. If you are permanently distracted, on your phone or laptop, don’t interact, don’t play with your child, or offer one on one time, then don’t expect your child to be any different and don’t expect to stop behaviour that you are modelling.
Anything which stifles your child’s communication, interaction and involvement within the family circle – (even crying is a method of communication, and needs to be listened to and interpreted), remove exposure to all consuming/distracting activities such as passive TV watching.
Above all, enjoy the experience of being a family and do not undervalue your skills as a parent, just keep working daily at the things you know will help your child and your whole family and enjoy the great results that follow. Set schedules, routines and systems/strategies in place that support positive interaction and most of all – HAVE FUN.
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