Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman has caused controversy by saying that under-three's should have almost no exposure to television. While it would be difficult to argue the opposite, many may be surprised that Dr. Sigman recommends virtual banishment for the very young. Furthermore, he recommends limiting up-to-seven year olds to a maximum of an hour and a half of TV or computer exposure per day, and a maximum of two hours up to the age of 18.
Dr. Sigman's recommendations are based on a number of research observations. One concern is that sitting in front of screens leads to a sedentary lifestyle and is largely responsible for the explosion in diabetes and heart disease in the population. Another concern is that the acts of watching television and playing computer games have an affect on brain development. While brain scans of computer gamers showed different brain patterns, his research does not conclusively prove that gaming alters the brain, or whether people with gaming patterns are predisposed to playing games. His research does suggest that gamers are more prone to addiction and develop a dependency on screen technology.
We probably aren't that surprised to hear all of this; we all remember our own grandparents talking about the perils of television and the harm it would do in modern society, but back then it was pure conjecture and fear of the unknown. That their fears are being realised at a time when screens are appearing in every room of the house and even in our pockets gives us more to think about. We really have entered the information age, and we don't know where this is going!
Child experts are increasingly concerned that technology is replacing physical activities in the lives of young children - children spend more time tapping away on computer keyboards, playing with pretend mobile phones and watching television than they do playing outdoors or doing craft and other traditional learning activities. Parents are becoming more lazy, preferring to sit children in front of a TV or a computer rather than interacting with them and undertaking physical games and activities.
Interacting with others is a vital component for children to develop properly. Traditional activities such as craft, drawing and doing puzzles, with an adult nearby, encourages fine motor skills and physical development, and language skills are learned by conversing with grown-ups. This is all bypassed by children sat passively in front of a TV or left to their own devices being entertained by computer games or pretend technology devices.
Even though parents today have less time to spend with their children than for previous generations, it seems that we are all too happy to spend that little time we do have separated from them while the children are expected to entertain themselves.
Spend a moment to reflect on your own lifestyle, and ask yourself whether you are dedicating enough time to your children?
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