Did your child receive a digital device as a gift over the holidays? Have you been able to prise it out of his/her hands yet?
Regular listeners might recall that we did an episode recently called “Really, how bad is screen time for my child?” where we went into the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines on screen time for very young children, so if you haven’t listened to that one yet you might want to go and do it before you listen to this episode, because this one really builds on that one.
Yes, we know we’re not supposed to give our babies under 18 months old access to screens. But at some point our children are going to start using screens – and we as parents need tools to manage that process, whether we’ve limited screens until now or whether we’ve been using them as a bit of a crutch. (If you’re in a third category of parents who is totally happy with the amount and type of screen time your children are getting and feel confident about managing this in the future then click along to the next episode, because there’s nothing for you here!) So all of this is what today’s guest is going to help us to figure out.
Dr Kristy Goodwin is one of Australia’s leading digital parenting experts (and mum who also has to deal with her kids’ techno-tantrums!). She’s the author of the brand new book Raising Your Child in a Digital World (Affiliate link). Dr Kristy arms parents, educators and health professionals with research-based information about what today’s young, digital kids really need to thrive online and offline. Kristy takes the guesswork and guilt out of raising kids in the digital age by arming parents and educators with facts, not fears about how screens are impacting on children’s health, wellbeing and development.
Brewer, J. (2016). Digital Nutrition (website/blog). Retrieved from: http://www.digitalnutrition.com.au/blog
Christakis, D., Zimmerman, F.J., DiGuiseppe, D.L., & McCarty, C.A. (2004). Early television exposure and subsequent attentional problems in children. Pediatrics 113(4), 708-713.
Common Sense Media website: www.commonsensemedia.org (Also check your app store for their app)
Goodwin, K. (2016). Raising your child in a digital world: What you need to know!. Warriewood, NSW: Finch. (Affiliate link)
Kindertown website: http://www.kindertown.com/ (Also check your app store for their app)
Read Full TranscriptTranscript
Jen: [00:30] Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Your Parenting Mojo, which is called Raising Your Child in a Digital World. Now, regular listeners might recall that we did an episode recently called really how bad his screen time for my child and we went into the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines on screen time for very young children. So if you haven’t listened to that one already, you might want to go back and do that before you listen to this episode because this one really builds on that one. So we all know that we’re not supposed to give her a babies under 18 months old access to screens, but at some point our children are going to start using screens and we as parents need tools to manage that process, whether we have limited screens until now or whether we’ve been using them as a bit of a crutch.
Jen: [01:10] And l say that if you find yourself in a third category of parents who’s totally happy with the amount and type of screen time that your children are getting and you feel confident about managing this in the future, then you should just click along to the next episode because there’s nothing for you here, but for the rest of us who are still trying to figure all this out that’s what today’s guest is going to help us do. So Dr. Kristy Goodwin is one of Australia’s leading digital parenting experts and she’s also a mom who has to deal with her kids techno tantrums. She’s the author of the brand new book, Raising Your Child in a Digital World, and Dr Christie arms parents, educators, and health professionals with research based information about what today’s young digital kids really need to thrive online and offline. Christy takes the guesswork and guilt out of raising kids in the digital age by arming parents and educators with facts and not fears about how screens are impacting children’s health, wellbeing, and development. Welcome Dr. Goodwin, thanks so much for joining us.
Dr. Goodwin: [02:05] My pleasure. It’s great to be here.
Jen: [02:08] So your book outlines seven building blocks for young children’s development. Can you tell us a little bit about what those are?
Dr. Goodwin: [02:15] Sure. So I draw on the neuroscience and the developmental science research and they have consistently identified that children have basic, unchanging developmental needs or priorities. And it doesn’t matter where the children were born in 2012 or whether they were born in 1950. Their developmental needs are fairly, pretty consistently the same. So I identified the seven basic developmental needs or as I refer to in the book as the building blocks. And kids need basic things like relationships and attachments. They need language exposure to as much language as possible, both hearing and using. They need sleep, they need opportunities for play, they need opportunities for physical movements, they need good quality nutrition. And the final one is a relatively new one that I’m looking at executive function skills and these are basically children’s higher order thinking skills at the part of the brain that’s responsible for executive function skills is sometimes referred to as the air traffic control system or CEO of the brain. So I draw on what the research because we’ve got a very robust, consistent body of research that says these are the basic needs that children have in order to thrive. And then what I do is look at how technology is intersecting with those basic needs.
Jen: [03:36] So I know we’ve, we’ve talked a lot already in the previous episode about how researchers are concerned with children’s screen time. So I, I want to spend a little bit of time on this just to make sure that we’re acknowledging it before we move into some of the more positive attributes. So can you tell us that some of the ways that screen time can hinder children’s development?
Dr. Goodwin: [03:55] We do some preliminary research that tells us that excessive or inappropriate use of technology with children can have some adverse effects. In particular, the research has consistently identified but excessive or inappropriately used technology can have implications on children’s sleep. It’s also associated with obesity levels and some research, although not yet consistent, tells us that it has been correlated with attentional issues. This doesn’t necessarily mean that screens cause attentional issues, but there’s definitely a link there. More recently we’re seeing, and again, these are still in the preliminary stages because we need to remember, you know, the ipad is only six years old, and as a researcher in this field, I have to admit, we’re really hopeless at keeping up with the technology. The technology is growing exponentially by the time we conduct, publish, and then disseminate research, the technology is often been superseded. So we don’t yet have, you know, I’m often asked what’s the longterm impact of preschoolers and toddlers on the iPad.
Dr. Goodwin: [05:00] I hate to say we really don’t yet know. And in some regards we are conducting a bit of a living experiment. So that’s why I always fall back on what do we know, what does the science tell us? It’s those seven basic things. So we’re seeing with screens in particular, there’s a displacement effect, so when children are using a screen thing, not doing something else. So in particular we’re seeing the early signs that we were concerned about children’s fine motor skills. So children are learning to tap, swipe, and pinch before they’ve learned to grip a pencil and tie their shoe laces were also concerned with perhaps the use of screens to early on derailing or changing children’s brain architecture. We know, for example, in the first three years of life, brain development is predominantly focused on the sensory and the motor regions of the brain.
Dr. Goodwin: [05:52] And then from that ages three to four, brain development shifts to that, the prefrontal, where they develop all those executive function skills. And we’re worried that if kids are spending too much time on screens and the sensory and motor regions of the brain, may be under-developed and then we’re placing them in a, you know, an online world that I call it, you know, it’s sensory seduction says things always trying to captivate their attention. Yet, they don’t have the impulse control that’s required in this prefrontal cortex where all their executive function skills…They don’t have those skills yet to manage their attention. So we can see there’s some of the potential concerns. Psychologists are very concerned with children’s self regulation skills that children are not learning how to manage some of their big emotions. Instead they’re being placated by a screen, you know, we give them the digital babysitter to calm them down.
Dr. Goodwin: [06:44] We’re also seeing, you know, some preliminary research on the impact of screens on relationships and other relationships children have with parents, not so much because of the child screen use, but even more interestingly, it’s parental use, you know, we’re calling it parental digital distraction and the impact that’s having. There’s one study that’s been published already that’s looked at what they’re calling fractured maternal care. And they looked at rodents because obviously getting ethics approval to do studies like this with humans would be near impossible. But what they’ve actually found is that there’s some adverse social and emotional consequences if the maternal rat was chronically distracted. I’m saying, you know, we’re just, there’s so many potential risks, so that’s why I think it’s always safe to be until we have conclusive longterm evidence, which we gears away from, let’s fall back on, you know, my friends call me Cautious Christy; I always err on the side of caution, do we know what, you know, what are their basic needs, let’s make sure they’re met and if they are met and a little bit of screen time is unlikely to be harmful or detrimental to them.
Jen: [07:52] Okay. Okay. That makes sense. I just want to dig into a couple of things that you’ve mentioned. You talked about the correlative link between screen time and attention, and just wanted to clarify that you did say that that’s not causative, but just to clarify for listeners that I think what you’re saying here is that we know that there’s a link between screen time and attention and we’re not sure which causes, which is that right?
Dr. Goodwin: [08:15] Absolutely. Definitely A study by Dr Christakis was published a few years ago and um, some of the media headlines as often is the case misconstrued the findings and said that screens, calls add and Adhd, and that is definitely not the case. We do not have the research to substantiate that there is a link, but we’re not sure which direction that link goes from. It goes between. So is it that children with attentional issues gravitate towards the rapid fire fast paced stimulation that the online world offers? Or is it that rapid fire stimulation, that sensory bombardment that controls a two inch totally. We don’t yet know. So I go back to what do we know that the prefrontal cortex, you know, where their executive function skills are developed. One of the key parts of executive function skills, is impulse control, and we know that this part of the brain doesn’t start to peek in its development until about age is four to six. So children cannot really orient and manage their attention. And even then attention management is not fully developed. So potential risks.
Jen: [09:26] Yeah, and it seems as though the issue of correlation/causation is also there on that managing attention research, right? We don’t know if the children who have trouble managing their attention are gravitating towards screens or vice versa. And just something else that you mentioned that caught my ear. You said that children are learning to tap, swipe and pinch before they start learning to hold a pencil or tie their shoe laces. Is that a concern or could it be that those fine motor skills that children are developing using a screen time is actually helping them. Which, which way does that go?
Dr. Goodwin: [09:59] Yeah, so we’ll put some mixed research there . There was actually a study by the technology company AVG two years ago that said that children literally meet their technical milestones before their physical milestones now. Um, and it’s interesting. I traveled throughout Australia and this year I’m in Australia was the first year of what they’re calling the iPad kindergarten generation and teach us throughout the country anecdotally reporting that children are entering school with poor fine motor skills so they can, you know, not...