Math speaks volumes on managing devices
(This column is second in a series of five columns focusing on technology and it's impact on the family and parenting. The entire series is available on the paper's website as each column appears.)
I did a double-take.
As a parent of small children I was in tune with the latest in strollers and attachments that made our lives easier. Better wheels and steering systems. Baskets under the seats. Strollers you could run with (run a marathon with if you want.) Indestructible strollers. What I was doing a double-take on was a stroller with an iPad holder.
Before you dismiss me as a grumpy old man, please read on.
First, the American Pediatrics Association has supplied us with some very specific guidelines.
So what follows is not some old guy's soapboxing about new-fangled problems. These doctors are standing on the side of the road holding caution signs and encouraging us to slow down a bit, and not go speeding down the parenting highway while texting.
We should pay heed.
Second, lest you still think this is just soapboxing, let me quickly point you toward the Kaiser Foundation's research on screen time and media content. The average is 10 hours a day for teens. I'll give you a second to google that to make sure I didn't make it up . . . . .
OK, if you're back you discovered that I didn't make it up.
If you don't find that 10 hours of screen time per day somewhat distressing, then you might as well flip the page and continue elsewhere in this fine publication.
Ten hours of anything is bad. Ten hours of eating? Bad. Ten hours of exercise? Not good. Ten hours of work? That's a long day. Ten hours of football? Well, that might be OK. Ten hours of breathing. OK that's good. But if you are equating breathing with screen time, well, hmmmm.
Brain development during the first six years of life is pretty amazing. Think about it. A 2-year-old can speak in complete, grammatically correct sentences and they haven't yet sat through AP English at the high school.
A 3-year-old mimics her parent's hand movements, completing complex hand-eye coordinated tasks.
The young brain is a sponge in need of exercise. Tablets and phones for 2-year-olds put the brain on auto pilot. No exercise. Sit back, and be entertained.
The number of neurological connections being wired in the 1- to 5-year-old is downright astounding.
If you are 60 and you decide to binge on Netflix for five hours, all you lost was five hours. If a 5-year-old binges on entertainment for five hours, we just lost five hours of brain development.
Do the math: 5 hours X 365 days = 1,825 hours.
Keep going: 1,825 hours X 5 years = 9,125 hours.
That span of time is the equivalent of 651 14-hour days, which is the daily waking time of a 5-year-old. That amounts to two years of waking hours lost for a 5-year-old. Gone.
That's 40 percent of their waking developmental brain time.
I don't want any kid to start school that far behind.
If you're a parent, I understand the need for a break, and the convenience of allowing your child to be entertained by electronic device. Go for it. But moderation is the key.
Consider your child's brain.
If you are someone who has a loved one with a small child, offer to give the parents a break and play with the child. Make eye contact. Read to them. Interact with their brain.