I will admit that one of my least desirable encounters is seeing young children focused on a hand-held screen to keep them occupied instead of having a conversation or experiencing a “teachable moment”. Crucial lessons that are being missed includes learning how to self-soothe and what it means to wait. Conversations and demonstrations by care givers and older children help facilitate this important learning. Without these human interactions, children become isolated and look for other means to keep themselves occupied. In addition, research has shown that the parts of the brain that are stimulated by rapidly moving images on a screen are the same centers where addiction resides.
Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair wrote the book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, in 2013. Since that time it has been a bestseller for educators and parents alike. We are raising the first generation of children who are able to make a choice between talking and texting. Texting eliminates relationship building – an important component of social development. Listen to Steiner-Adair talk about child development on this video.
Psychology Today published an article, “Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain” in 2014. Author Victoria L. Dunckley, MD. Looked at various research and observations of her own patients. What she saw was children with sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyperaroused nervous system. She saw children that were moody, impulsive and that can’t pay attention. All executive function skills are affected by the loss of functioning processing skills that screen type inhibits. Also at risk are the brain centers that involve the development of empathy and compassion for others and reading non-verbal signals correctly.
On October 26, 2018, the New York Times published an article titled, “A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley”. An example of the messages about screens and children is from Chris Anderson, former editor of Wired magazine and founder of GeekDad.com. “On the scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine,” Mr. Anderson said of screens. Many Silicon Valley parents found out the hard way that phones, iPads, and video games are not healthy for children.
The good news is that at Twin Parks Montessori Schools, there is no screen time. Children learn to use their senses and how to coordinate their hands and minds together. Empathy is taught by role modeling by teachers and in real negotiation and collaborating experiences. Children learn how to communicate with others and how to be productive members of the community. Children experience authentic, personal self-learning that forms the foundation of who they will become as caring, empathetic humans. Montessori is more than a method of teaching – it is a philosophy for life!