Help your child avoid Triple ‘S’ Syndrome
Parents need to ensure that their children do not fall prey to what I refer to as Triple ‘S’ Syndrome: a solitary, sedentary, screen-based existence. With our busy lifestyles it is easy to fall into this trap:
On-screen activities perform the convenient role of both babysitter and entertainer which is very useful for us but detrimental to our children on the whole. One of the key developmental areas in childhood is socialising and this must be done through real, face-to-face play activities to have any effect. When you are too tired to play with your child or too busy to take your child to play dates or host other children in your home, the result is often a child who spends a lot of time alone, and in front of a screen for company. Even children who watch TV together don’t necessarily interact and communicate.
When children are in front of a screen they are leading an increasingly sedentary existence. The couch becomes their best friend or Siamese twin, if you will. Exchanging the couch for any movement-based activities becomes harder and harder the more time is spent in front of a screen. Movement helps to wire the brain for academic learning which means a sedentary existence must be avoided at all costs or you will have even more demands on your time and wallet as you sign your child up for therapy to fill in the developmental gaps. Children also become more difficult to motivate and discipline which will strain your relationship. Manage on-screen time for both your sakes.
When children spend a lot of time in front of a screen, on-screen activities can become very addictive because they stimulate the secretion of chemicals (Dopamine) from the pleasure center of the brain as they reach different levels and claim rewards. Children can also experience a false sense of achievement without having done very much. Children are increasingly viewing the world from a screen. Under the age of 12 a child has a developmental need to engage more with the real and rather than the virtual world in order to create meaning and understanding about the world for themselves. This occurs through multi-sensory stimulation not just through the eyes and ears when playing on a screen.
Moderation and a good balance between on-screen and off-screen activities is important. It’s a sad fact that many children now engage with on-screen activities rather than sharing a bedtime story, songs or conversations with their parents.
What I call Triple ‘S’ Syndrome could erode the very connections on which we build our families and our children’s futures. Prevention is better than cure. Vaccinate immediately with regular doses of screen-free time characterised by the warm fuzzy features of play, movement, communication and connection.
For more information, read my new book, Tech-Savvy Parenting (Bookstorm, 2014).