Many years ago when I was teaching mathematics we were both excited and a little anxious to be given a BBC computer for our classrooms! That thought is almost laughable now. Who would have imagined that in less than 25 years we would be at a point where every child not only has their own computer ,in the form of a laptop, ipad or smart phone, but actually such access to the internet is crucial to their school education. In those same years, following the launch of Sky television in 1989, the number of channels on our televisions have risen phenomenally . I am still of an age when I can remember the test screen coming on and the national anthem being played when the programmes finished for the day and there may be an argument to say that we lost quality when we gained quantity!!
Now I am not lamenting the good old days but a recent study reported in The International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity suggests that for every hour that your child spends in front of a television or computer screen each day they will fall by the equivalent of 2 grades in their GCSE examinations. That is a shocking figure but the evidence came from monitoring over 800 teenagers.
As the hours of available television have increased there have been many suggestions that the flickering screen is not good for our health. It has been suggested that excess television viewing can cause many detrimental affects such as
- A sleep like hypnotic state
- A lack of critical analysis of the information entering our subconscious
- Addiction to the endorphins released when we watch tv
- Reduction in Higher Brain Activity
- A shorter attention span
Add to that the suggestions that extra screen time can cause a sensory overload, a lack of restful sleep and a hyper aroused nervous system it is no wonder many children are suffering from mood swings and a lack of focus.
My personal concern for a long time has been that this obsession with technology is actually destroying our ability to communicate. I would not want to get rid of technology because it provides us with a huge source of information and is a wonderful way to connect with people on the other side of the world but as the report concludes we need to moderate the time we spend on it.
Even as I am writing this I can hear you saying ‘that is all well and good but how do we stop our children?’ which is a good question
Well sometimes the simplest solutions can help. A Parent I spoke to recently said she turns the internet off at night! How simple is that? And yet I had never thought of doing it. My holistic practitioner would definitely approve. Another practice is to have a break every 45 mins, this would not be so effective when watching tv but is a valuable option when working on a laptop. The other news that came out of this report is that reading has the opposite effect on GCSE results, ie it increases grades, so may be you can negotiate screen time with quiet down time reading a book. Of course the earlier you start all these practices the easier they are to enforce and the best way you can influence your children is to lead by example.
Your children’s brains are precious. Television and computers are a way of life now but may be we can teach our children that it is beneficial to turn the technology off for a short time each day. I urge you to think about the time your children spend on technology and take steps to reduce that time. For example you could make meal time technology free? We do not want to make technology bad just simply remind our children that technology is a tool not a way of life.