Enough to Make you Screen!

This article first appeared in the West Australian Newspaper

What is the problem with Screens?

Screen time is causing neck, spine and posture problems in young children. Researchers warn that this can ‘play havoc’ with their school readiness, .

A study from the University of South Australia found almost 22% of pre-school children were developmentally vulnerable. These children displayed much lower than average ability in physical and emotional skills.

Researchers likened the findings to parents using screens as ‘babysitters’ in lieu of quality play.

The result is that more pre-schools have children with greater needs, leaving them in desperate need for early childhood interventions. Professionals such as occupational therapy, speech pathology and physiotherapy are much more in demand..

UniSA Researcher Kobie Boshoff

But a Western Australian expert warned against a blanket “all screens are bad” approach. He wants vulnerable children to be given more screen time, not less, to ensure they do not fall further behind.

Professor Leon Stracker said there were clear developmental risks with the inappropriate use of technology. There were also great educational and developmental opportunities if that technology was used properly.

‘These are kids that need extra help, and need to be given more time on technology in structured settings. In schools, teachers know what good technology is like, rather than relying on poorly resourced parents’ he said.

Is your child a ‘Good Digital Citizen?

If we don’t teach these kids how to be digital citizens going forward, they are going to be disadvantaged all the way through school, and life.

Professor Leon Stracker
Teach children to be good digital citizens

Professor Stracker said he also wanted families to be educated on avoiding neck and spine problems in children. Often this results from them sitting hunched over screens or books. He recommends children lie on their stomachs and rest on their elbows while watching TV.

Nature Play – let’s get back to Nature

It comes as Nature Play WA prepares to hold a seminar for overwhelmed Perth parents struggling to find a balance between screen time and play.

Nature Play’s chief executive said rather than becoming the ‘tech police’ it was important parents helped their children to live in the digital world. He said ‘It’s certainly not the case that you’re either a tech person or an outdoors person. We’re all both, and parents need more help finding that balance in the context of a busy, complicated life’.

He said it was vital that parents spent time consuming media and using technology alongside their children. ‘This is the first generation of parents facing this particular challenge. We can’t look to our own experience, and can’t ask our Mum and Dads.’

‘There’s going to be some catch up time, and it’s really important parents don’t get shamed.’