Journal de Leiria – A child is a man’s father

The first text I wrote for this newspaper was about the time young people spend at computers and other screens. It was June 2020, pure epidemic, and technology opened the street door for us, even if it closed at home.

The digital age, the generation Z that has never been seen in the world without the network and the epidemic. Hunger was combined with the desire to eat. Screens, which have long been preferred by this age group, considered themselves the best of friends. Face-to-face meetings were not necessary but were “forbidden” at the time.

It’s been nearly two years, and in addition to those young people who were talking to you, children of technology and modernity, we may now have the children of this epidemic. However, the younger, still young, for whom normal life was almost always seen with unidentified eyes.

The mask concealed the true expression of many emotions and the limitations prevented many opportunities for peer interaction. In fact, the little ones would hardly notice these limitations, as it had always been this way since they got here. But the effect is beginning to be felt.

Many young children with language impairment, poor social interaction, and tantrums seem to hit developmental dates that only end with cell phones. There are children who, from a neurodevelopmental point of view, already have a predisposition to these characteristics, but the number of cases has increased and this makes us think about the side effects of the “bases” to which we have been exposed to Covid 19.

In addition to the mask and the denial of social contexts, the time spent at home has emerged and if before the pandemic it was already difficult to limit children’s use of screens, while complicating matters remotely. How can we be productive with young children who get our attention? It is not easy. Absolutely! And despite the recommendations of the American Pediatric Association (AAP, 2016) and the World Health Organization (WHO, 2019) against screens up to the age of two, the truth is that in practice no one has done so.

What is the danger of this exposure at this age?

AAP experts say digital devices are not recommended before the age of 24 months, as babies need to interact with caregivers and explore their surroundings to gain cognitive, emotional, motor and language skills. They also speak of the symbolic immaturity, characteristic of this age group that still does not allow to distinguish between fantasy and real life, and recommend that screen time, from two to five years, be limited to only one hour a day, with content appropriate to the stage of development of the child and under Adult mediation supervision.

In fact, what is really going on? During the first stage of its development, a child has more than twice as many synapses (the connections between neurons) as an adult. Since the life path the child will take is not yet known, these connections are a kind of precaution and ensure that nothing fails. It turns out that at a certain point there is some kind of natural selection or, better said, there is synaptic pruning: the brain recognizes the most used synapses as the most necessary and removes those it understands as unnecessary because they are not used. This explains, for example, why the Chinese cannot pronounce some sounds typical of Western languages. In the period considered critical for neurodevelopment, from zero to five years, these stimuli were not presented to him, so the neurons and synapses responsible for them were eliminated because they were supposed to be useless. Either you use it or you lose it.

This means what? That in the critical period of pruning, children are often passively attached to the screen, which does not require language, interaction or socialization, missing out on an endless world of opportunities, because at this time safe bonding relationships and healthy behaviors are established, in addition Being the perfect moment for social, vocal and linguistic insemination.

The big game for kids should be their parents and not tablets, cell phones or the like. The early years were established. Language, attention, social skills, managing emotions…it all takes shape at the beginning. There are things that can only be gained face to face, in relationships and emotional engagement, and these lessons last a lifetime. There is moderation in the exposure of the screens. There are free media times and there is also co-viewing, as interpretation and selection of the content a child sees reduces the risk of inappropriate uses, promotes communication and language development, to
In addition to increasing the quality and time of interaction between parents and children.

It’s important for kids to know how to get bored and there are times when there’s really nothing to do but do nothing.

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