BY NATALIE BENJAMIN-DAMONS (PHYSIOTHERAPIST) With the increased use of devices, in both play and learning platforms, we see children spending most of their day hunched over their phones, tablets or laptops. If we consider, how many times we were told as children to sit properly, as parents we must see the negative effects on extended screen time on our children’s posture. Our bodies are designed for us to be in an upright position. If we consider sitting in front of a screen, children tend to slouch and bend their heads, spine and shoulders in a forward position. After an extended period there is increased strain of the neck. This can result in a condition called ‘text neck’, which occurs after repeated stress related to excessive watching or texting on hand held devices. A more serious form of this condition can result in inflammation of the neck ligaments, nerve irritation and increased curvature of the spine. So here are some tips for you to keep in mind when your child is at their favourite activity….the SCREEN Avoid prolonged periods of time on the device.For younger children, here are recommendations from the Canadian Pediatric society: Screen time For children younger than 2 years is not recommended. For children 2 to 5 years, limit routine or regular screen time to less than 1 hour per day.Ensure that sedentary screen time is not a routine part of child care for children younger than 5 years.Maintain daily ‘screen-free’ times, especially for family meals and book-sharing.Avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime, given the potential for melatonin-suppressing effects. Have kids take breaks after every 20-30 minutes.Use this time to let them stretch, run around or play outsideTry to use device stands where possibleWhen they are on a screen like a laptop or tablet Place the device in front of them. Raise their device. Viewing distance approximately 40cm from the eye and on level with the eyes. Make sure they sit back in their seat and use the back rest for support Their forearms should rest on the arms of the chair while typing or placed on the table. The keyboard should be close to avoid reaching forward. Feet should be placed on the ground and not hanging Children should spend at least an hour on vigorous physical activity daily. Where possible have do them ‘normal’ tasks in a more physical manner. Like ‘duckwalking’ to bedroom or building a puzzle in a plank position. Our children are insightful and intelligent, so remember to educate them about posture and physical activity and very soon they will be reminding you about your posture! Physiopedia, n.d., Text Neck, viewed 21 September 2020, <https://www.physio-pedia.com/Text_Neck#cite_note-:0-1>
This is your imagination, the faculty of creating new ideas or images not accessible to the senses. It is the imagination that feeds the way to creativity or the invention of original ideas.
By Waheeda Essop (Occupational Therapist) Every child is unique. Every child develops at a different pace, some are quickly mature, others remain childish longer than their peers. So, defining the right age to give your child a cellphone cannot be prescribed by anyone other than you. One can, however, consider a few things before handing over the much-wanted device. “Issuing” a first-phone is almost like drawing up a contract. Does your child have an understanding of what a contract is or what it means to have a formal obligation around the device and does he or she understand the consequences of breaking an agreement. Is your child ready for the onslaught of social media? She may see the phone as a cool means of communicating with her friends, but do they have a concept of ‘sharing’ information, posting pics and grasping the ramifications of this, does he have insight on how to sift through information sorting through the real from the bogus, and most importantly is your child primed enough to handle the dynamics of cyber bullying. So, when giving your child a phone think of it as taking your child to a completely foreign playground, with new people and new equipment. How would you prepare him, what would you say and particularly, what rules would you create. Similarly, rules and boundaries can be set with a phone. These can cover time spent on the phone, use of data, control of sites and social media. As a parent one should have full access to the phone, know their passwords, and always be able to follow their digital footprint. With this insight a parent can supervise a child as we do in all other areas of children’s many-faceted lives. An infringement of the contract should also have a policy. These should be discussed and explained at the onset. The challenging part is maintaining consistency with the implementation of these rules. But granted, if ‘punishment’ is the temporary confiscation of the device, your child will definitely be hesitant to break the rules again. Remember, your child is still growing and learning. So, time outside the screen is precious. It is the time you can use to counter the effects of the screen, allowing your child to be physically and emotionally strong. As parents we do not need to optimize our children’s use of technology, but rather focus on optimizing its users.
By Waheeda Essop (Occupational Therapist) It’s like magic It’s alluring It’s addictive They cannot get enough!! Having children engage on screen activities is like saying yes to chocolate cake!! But what is it about screentime that really has kids panting for more? When children partake in a screen activity or watch a movie….it’s a ‘fun rollercoaster’, continuous with constant feedback. And if this exciting feedback is not received, then all they need do to is change the app/channel/ game. It is as simple as that. While this is awesome entertainment for all (yes for us parents too!), it tends to lead to the instant gratification phenomena and limits the development of delayed gratification and general endurance. So when a child is faced with routine tasks, they do not get any feedback and this affects their motivation in completing the task. This scenario is compounded in a school setting where activities, have no appeal to them and children are found to be distractible and easily bored. So how do we tackle this? Besides limiting screentime, to develop endurance children need to partake in activities that are longer with challenging segments but have an amazing outcome or end product. Gardening in the perfect example. Kids plant seeds or seedlings, they have to nurture this daily, then only after a week or so would they see results. Herbs and vegetables are also lovely as our little gardeners would need to keep a regular check on these and tell mum or dad what is available to them in the kitchen. Craft activities or similar creative tasks are also excellent. They would need to gather materials, follow instructions and get satisfaction only when they have completed the end product. Other ideas to have children do is to plan or orchestrate something, whether it be a small event or an activity for others. So perhaps you have guests coming over and need to have a pretty table setting. Let them assist! They can throw ideas around, rummage the cupboard for crockery or explore the garden for pretty centrepieces. They will be at it for a while but the end-table will be awesome enough for them to feel accomplished!
By Waheeda Essop (Occupational Therapist) So my child spends a good amount of time on the tablet What’s the big deal? When we were kids we usually spent every waking moment playing, often outside and usually with friends. With the surge of screentime it seems that all kids want to do ….is get their hands on a screen. But is this fun accessible gadget really so bad for children? In early years a child’s brain develops more than at any other time in life. The quality of a child’s experiences in the first few years of life helps shape how their brain develops. Development of the brain occurs with the child’s experiences of life activity….specifically activities that require movement and sensory involvement. When a child is actively playing on a screen, his sensory involvement is limited to visual stimuli whilst his cognitive engagement is confined to a small area of the brain. And most importantly, his motor movement is restricted to an uncoordinated movement of the finger tips. So when a child is on the screen….very little brain development actually occurs. Essentially excessive time spent of the screen is in fact ‘stolen time’, away from other activities or tasks that are likely to be more beneficial. Children can preferably spend a good chunk of their free time in play involving toys, other children and physical activities. This welcomes engagement of numerous sensory systems, stimulation of motor development and in turn cognitive development or brain growth. It is thus prescribed that we limit screentime to 60 minutes a day on tablets or phones, for children under 6 years of age. For older children 2 hours per day is a safe limit. These can be divided into short sessions throughout the day. The sessions give parents better control and these can be used in reward/discipline mechanisms. A shorter session is also beneficial on a brain level as it combats the negative effects of screen usage. The world of technology has become a requisite tool in today’s world. For our young ones however, their merits are sometimes contrary to actualising their potential. We can as parents try our best to adapt and juggle all its facets to create a solid foundation for future years.