Building A Healthy Relationship Between Your Child and Technology

It really is possible!

We’ve written before about the feelings of guilt that some parents can experience when allowing their child to use screens, but we thought it would be helpful to write about the process of building a healthy relationship between your child and technology.

Technology is important — it gives our children access to socialisation, education and entertainment. It’s also a vital tool in busy households where one or both parents are working full time and can’t seem to provide their child with the right amount of mental stimulation, while also trying to stay financially afloat.

Dr. Jenny Radeski M.D., a paediatrician and expert on children and media at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital stresses that screen time should not be seen by parents as a negative thing, as long as some consideration is given to the way in which a child interacts and engages with it. She proposes ‘The Three C’s’ framework for modern parenting, focusing on child, content and context.

Understanding that parents know their own children better than anyone else, Dr. Radeski states that they are the best people to decide what media and how much media is the right amount for their child to consume. For example — if you have a particularly anxious child, it’s important to avoid exposure to news media and scary or exciting videos. If your anxious child likes music, find media for them to engage with that involves singing or musical soundtracks.

Quality of content of quantity of content is equally important when it comes to screen time. For younger children, parents should seek content created by reputable sources, like PBS Kids or ABC Kids. Common Sense Media are a great resource for all parents, providing age-based recommendations on all forms of media, such as movies, television, apps and games. Various zoos and aquariums are also offering live camera feeds to entertain and educate children.

When choosing media for your child to consume, research has shown those that mimic real-life at a realistic pace are best for reducing overstimulation and are less likely to trigger attention issues in children. In terms of older children playing video games, it’s important to remember that experts say there is no connotation between video games and violent or destructive behaviour, and instead insist that these technological mediums are paramount in maintaining socialisation for teens and older children.

In terms of context, Dr. Radeski encourages parents to engage with their children during screen time. Show interest to help your child build their self-esteem. Help connect your child’s media use with real world experiences by asking questions about what they are learning or watching. For example, you could watch a cooking video with your child, and then spend an hour or two recreating that recipe as a family.

To avoid conflicts over time allowed on devices and the ways in which they are used, it’s important to create and communicate clear boundaries and stick to them as much as possible. Younger children crave structure more than anything else. Dr. Radeski recommends setting a no-screen rule one hour before bed, as well as one hour after waking, to avoid impacting sleep cycles.

And above all? Practice what you preach.

If you are on your phone all the time, your child will want to mimic that behaviour. Technology is a fantastic resource — but the best memories will always come from real parent-to-child interaction.

If you have any questions about children and technology, or if you need help establishing a family routine around devices, get in contact with Kasia by emailing hello@kasiapalko.com.au.

Sources: Cheng, E. R. & Wilkinson, T. A. (2020). Agonizing Over Screen Time? Follow The Three C’s. NY Times.; Carey, B. (2018). Is Screen Time Bad For Kids Brains? NY Times.

Should Parents Feel Guilty For Allowing Screen Time?

Parenting in the modern day.

An increasing amount of parents have transitioned to working from home as a result of the current COVID-19 lockdowns, and we have seen children spending more time at home than ever before. With this, there is a natural need for entertaining restless young ones, especially when parents are still trying to work and run households successfully. The six-hour productivity window that childcare centres and schools provided all but disappeared for a couple of months, as lockdown restrictions tightened.

While we are seeing restrictions slowly ease across the nation, families are learning that it’s hard to try and keep children entertained without resorting to screens and technology. There’s also an element of parent-guilt associated with allowing children to use screens.

“Parents need to stop thinking about screen time in a negative way,” says Dr. Jenny Radeski M.D., a paediatrician and expert on children and media at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. In the current day, children are not just using screens to play video games and watch cartoons — they are, in fact, using them to connect virtually with their teachers, school friends and extended family members.

It is recognised that screen addiction has the ability to change the brain, but so does every other activity that children engage in. From sleep and homework, to sports and reading; there are a multitude of mediums that alter the way a child’s brain works — both positively and negatively. Children of today are using screens as a means to communicate, socialise and learn — all of which are of utmost importance in an isolated society, and contribute positively to a child’s emotional development.

Many parents are already aware of the biggest downside of screen usage: the way it can interrupt other childhood experiences like sleep, playing outside, creative time and getting into mischief. But it’s more about creating healthy boundaries as opposed to setting specific time limits or recommendations. Dr. Radeski has called for a reduction in the promotion of common screen time recommendations, stating that every child is different in their needs, and the enforcement of such standards allows room for parental guilt and shame.

As long as your child is not on a device all day, they’ll be fine.

If you have any questions about children and technology, get in contact with Kasia by emailing hello@kasiapalko.com.au.

Sources: Cheng, E. R. & Wilkinson, T. A. (2020). Agonizing Over Screen Time? Follow The Three C’s. NY Times.; Carey, B. (2018). Is Screen Time Bad For Kids Brains? NY Times.

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Art Therapy: Effects on Health, Wellbeing and Development

Improving health through art?

Children’s involvement in arts activities are considered ‘multimodal interventions’; in that they combine different components that are known to be beneficial to health and wellbeing.

Arts activities can involve aesthetic engagement, utilisation of imagination, sensory activation, evocation of emotion and cognitive stimulation. Art activities may also involve social interaction, physical activity, and engagement and interaction within a therapeutic setting.

When performed, arts activities can engage and trigger psychological, physiological, social and behavioural responses that are linked with positive health outcomes. For example: when children are painting, sculpturing or doing crafts, there is an aesthetic and emotional component to their work that provides opportunities for emotional expression and emotional regulation, as well as stress reduction. These are intrinsic to how we manage our mental health.

Art can also make children view obstacles differently, as there is no “wrong answer” to creativity. Such an attitude can play a large role in providing a sense of optimism for a child — not to mention the feeling of accomplishment upon the completion of an artistic task — both of which are essential to building confidence within children.

The benefits of cognitive stimulation when a child is engaged in the arts can provide opportunities for learning, creative thinking and skill development. The social aspects of artistic interaction with other children can involve positive relations with peers, and participating in the arts can also improve a child’s self-esteem, self-beliefs, and reduce feelings of loneliness and experiences of discrimination, which are linked with future mental illness and other conditions such as depression, chronic pain and headaches.

In terms of the physical: the arts can reduce a child’s sedentary behaviours, associated with obesity, depression and chronic pain in adult life, and can also encourage health-promoting behaviours such as eating healthy food and experimenting with play.

If you would like to discuss incorporating arts activities into your child’s routine, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can send an email to hello@kasiapalko.com.au, and you can also find us on Facebook.

Sources: Catterall, J. & Peppler, K.A. (2007, December). Learning in the visual arts and worldview of young children. Cambridge Journal of Education , 37(4); World Health Organization. (2019). Health Evidence Network synthesis report 67. What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review the WHO European region.; Greenspan, S. I. (2002). The secure child: Helping our children feel safe and confident in a changing world. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Creative Education

Learning through the arts.

Arts education in schools often serves as the bright spot in the child’s day or week, and represents a time that encourages experimentation with colour, beauty and joy – all of which are not focused solely on testing or performance.

Paul Sowden, a Psychology professor at the University of Winchester in England, believes arts education should be available equally to everyone due to its ability to encourage resilience and determination, as well as the mastery of many complex skills.

“Music, drama, dance, design, visual arts… You’re looking for opportunities in the arts education content to encourage children to ask questions, to use their imaginations, but also to approach their work in a systematic, disciplined way,” Dr Sowden says.

When children are younger, especially in their ‘Incredible Years’, arts education helps to develop their ability for collaboration, elaboration and creativity, and even the ability to ask meaningful questions. As children get older, they are more prepared to complete tasks, pay attention and engage with their curriculum. Arts education also offers the chance to polish a skill over time or continue working on assessments and projects until they are as good as they can be.

A professor at the John’s Hopkins School of Education has stated that a lot of the information children are taught in school often doesn’t stick. However, when arts were integrated into the same curriculum, Professor Mariale Hardiman said that “learning became more visible”, and children were able to retain information better.

The integration of arts education into the lives of young people can have dramatic improvements on a number of core skills. Memory is shown to be enhanced through arts education, as is the ability to elaborate and explain processes, as well as work successfully without external stimulation.

The regular curriculum-based structure is important, says Dr Ronald Beghetto, a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut, but so too is the ability to determine the solution to problems on one’s own. Arts education allows children to “determine their own problems to solve, as well as their own ways to solve them.”

If you would like to read more about the role of arts education in the development of children, I really recommend checking out this article.

Source: Klass, P (2019). Using Arts Education To Help Other Lessons Stick. The New York Times.

Reading To Your Children

Here’s why it needs to be a priority

Young children, especially those aged 1-4 years, learn primarily through relationships and back-and-forth interactions. Reading is seen to be both of these things: it’s an examination of relationships, while at the same time encouraging back-and-forth interactions. 

A new study by the New York University School of Medicine has shown the true impact of reading with young children. The study has shown that reading shapes a child’s social and emotional development in ways that go far beyond helping them learn language and early literacy skills. But perhaps the most important discovery from the study was this: parents reading to their children, especially when they are young, can curb problem childhood behaviours like aggression, hyperactivity, and difficulties with attention.

While most parents in this study did report feeling silly acting out scenarios from books to their children, the observational deduction from this study shows that children react positively to this sort of stimuli. In fact, it makes children happy – very much so. They love it, and they find it very fun to see their parents interacting with them in such a creative and imaginative format. 

Reading to your children shapes not only their cognitive functions, but also their social and emotional development. Dr Adriana Wiesleder (Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northwestern University, Illinois) says that reading a variety of texts to children throughout their ‘Incredible Years’ helps children encounter situations that are a little more challenging than what they usually come across in everyday life. Through reading, children are given problems that need to be solved, and this gives parents the opportunity to help their child process these problems and find out ways to manage them. 

“When parents read with their children more, the children have an opportunity to think about characters, to think about the feelings of those characters. They learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult, and this enables them to better control their behaviour when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness,” says Dr Alan Mendelsohn (New York University School of Medicine).

But which books are best for reading to young children? 

A separate study has shown that print books (paper-based, physical books) are the best way to go when reading with young children.

Research has shown that reading printed books with children generates more verbalisations about the story, from both parents and children. This back-and-forth dialogic collaboration whilst reading positively impacts children, allowing them to maintain focus on the story and learn from it. Technology-based reading, like the kind you see on iPads and electronic devices, has shown to be not only distracting, but also negatively impactful on the way children perceive reading and language. This is largely due to the negative dialect that surrounds technology-based reading (i.e. ‘don’t touch that’, etc), as well as the overwhelming distractions that these book formats provide.

Children of today are expected to be entirely fluent with reading by Grade 3, but most parents won’t be surprised to know that a large percentage of children aren’t able to reach that benchmark. 

Collaboratively reading print-based books not only builds a positive and open relationship between parents and children, but it also helps your child learn how to manage their emotions, while at the same time improving their cognitive functions and understanding of the world around them. 

If your child is having issues with their behavioural and cognitive functions, I recommend seeking help from a behavioural specialist. My intuitive, play-based approach aims to nurture a child’s imagination, creativity and inner will. I utilise observation and interaction to support your child in facing and managing any difficulties or challenges they might be experiencing. 

Source: Klass, P (2019). Reading to your toddler? Print books are better than digital ones. The New York Times; and Klass, P (2018). Reading aloud to young children has benefits for behaviour and attention. The New York Times.