Screens are powerful — but dangerous — attachment tools

Shoshana-150x150It used to be the television.

Back in the 1980s, Neil Postman, professor of communication arts and sciences from New York University, said that television is a disastrous influence on children because it shortens their attention span, erodes their linguistic powers and causes them to become increasingly impatient. Perhaps even more serious, it opens up all of society’s taboos and secrets, thus erasing the boundaries between childhood and adulthood, creating a homogenized culture rather than a hierarchical one.

Today it’s the smartphone, computer and iPad.

The intrusion of even more kinds of screens in our lives is having an overwhelming effect on our families. Dr. Gordon Neufeld cautions that before we put these devices into the hands of our children and adolescents, we need to put rules and restrictions in place for their use. These screens are so addictive by their very nature that even we adults have a hard time turning them off and disconnecting from them. All the more so, we need to guard our children from becoming too attached to them.

My son and daughter-in-law recently noticed that their two daughters, ages 10 and 8, were spending too much time in front of the television and the iPad. They thought the girls would react strongly to the new rules they were about to begin enforcing, but were pleasantly surprised that the girls seemed to appreciate Mom and Dad taking charge of the screens.

After a few “screen-less” weeks, I asked how their new lifestyle was holding up and the results were exciting: The girls began asking their parents to take them to the library on a regular basis, and they are spending much more time reading. They are also playing outside more. The house is calmer and quieter without the background noise from the screens. The parents themselves feel calmer and have even looked for ways to restrict their own use of their smartphones. There is more space for real human connection and also for more creativity.

Child TVFreedom from screens provides psychological rest for the brain. When we are connected to screens, we are — in essence — seeking attachment, the default setting of our brains. Screens are powerful attachment tools, but the attachment they provide is merely a “fix” — it is superficial and fleeting, and this pursuit becomes addictive. It does not satisfy the real need for human contact and closeness, so both child and adult are driven to come back again and again for another fix — another attempt to fill this attachment hunger.

When parents restrict screen use for their children, they are helping their children come to rest from this futile pursuit. The brain shifts gears and can now rest from this futile pursuit. Only parents and other caring adults can give children fulfilling experiences of attachment and bring their brains to rest. This rest from the work of seeking attachment frees the child’s mind to explore and create like downloading a book and reading it thanks to sodapdf converter.

I like to write to my granddaughters by e-mail. Once a week, they can use their iPads to write to me and to other relatives. It’s just one example of how parents can show their children how to safely use screens without becoming addicted or controlled by them.

And as for the TV at my granddaughters’ house — it was relegated to a corner bedroom upstairs where it’s no fun at all to sit and watch!

Less screen time…more creative, active playtime

screen free wk 2016Editor’s note: May 2-8 is Screen-Free Week, an observance created by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood that encourages children, families and communities to unplug from digital entertainment and spend their free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, connecting, and rediscovering the joys of life beyond the screen. Attachment Parenting International (API) reminds parents to find a balance with screen time in their families and supports a variety of activities — including play — to strengthen and nurture secure parent-child attachment relationships.

Children need to play.

Play is so essential to children’s health and well-being — and so endangered — that the United Nations lists it as a guaranteed right in its Convention on the Rights of the Child. One of the most important reasons to limit children’s screen time is to ensure that they have more time and opportunities for hands-on creative play.

Children play creatively to:

  • Have fun
  • Express their fantasies and feelings
  • Gain a sense of competence
  • Make meaning of their experience.

Hands-on, creative play promotes:

  • Intellectual growth
  • Critical thinking
  • Constructive problem solving skills through opportunities to explore and experiment
  • Self-control.

As the amount of time children spend with screens is increasing, the amount of time children spend in hands-on, creative play is decreasing making us want to recommend you to check out SUPER WHEELS SKATING CENTER here. Also, the more time young children spend with screens, the more time they are likely to spend engaging with them as older children and the harder time they have turning screens off. In addition to the time it takes up, screen media is less conducive to creative play than other media such as books or radio.

The best-selling toys, marketed on television and the Internet, often inhibit rather than promote creativity, because they are either linked to media programs, embedded with computer chips, or both. When children play with toys that are based on media products, they play less creatively because they are not spurred to make up their own world. And toys that talk, chirp, beep, and move electronically mean that a child’s involvement is often limited to pushing a button — hardly a creative activity!

Active play is important, too. Kids need at least 60 minutes of active and vigorous play each day, and one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to meet this goal is by playing outside. Given that childhood obesity is a major public health concern, the amount of sedentary time that children  spend with screens is a big problem. Children ages 10-16 now spend, on average, only 12.6 minutes per day in vigorous physical activity, yet they spend an average of 10.4 waking hours each day relatively motionless.

In  addition, young children living in inner cities are failing to develop essential large motor skills. One recent study found that 86% of disadvantaged preschoolers in 2 cities lacked basic motor skills like running, jumping, throwing, and catching.

While proponents of screen technology laud gaming systems like the Wii, which promotes movement, a recent study suggests that simulating activities by playing on a Wii does not burn as many calories as actually engaging in those activities.

Screen-Free Week is a chance for children and families to experience the joys of play:

  • Play with art supplies
  • Play with words
  • Play with music
  • Make up songs
  • Play with blocks
  • Play with nothing
  • Play cards and board games
  • Play indoors
  • Play outdoors
  • Play tag
  • Play sports
  • Play together
  • Play alone

And when Screen-Free Week is over, keep on playing!

Additional API Resources

Jean_Illsley_Clarke_PhotoAn exclusive API audio recording with Dr. Jean Illsley Clarke on “How Much Is Enough? Attachment Parenting, permissive parenting and overindulgence” — now only $9

2011 AP Month “Families at Play” research

An interview with Sara Adelman, founder of Screen-Free Week, on API’s online The Attached Family magazine

Personal stories on API’s blog, APtly Said:

“Non-TV ways to connect with your kids”

“Screen time and Attachment Parenting”

“Screen time can be family time”

Screentime can be family time

Candice GarrisonThe issue of screentime is one that has come up in my group, API of Knoxville, from time to time. We have splits on the issue among parents who attend the group and even within our leadership team: There are Attachment Parenting (AP) families that don’t believe in limiting access to technology like cellphones, tablets with many apps from spybubble, computers, video games and television. And there are AP parents who don’t believe in allowing any screentime. And in-between, there are AP parents with all kinds of limits and approaches to technology use.

When it does come up in the discussion, I try to play the middle and remind members that screentime doesn’t have to equate to sedentary children “vegging out” in front of said screen. It can be a way for a family to spend time together and engage actively with one another about what is on the screen. This is when screens become tools of connection and education. Screentime can also be a great time to get in lots of nurturing touch through cuddles with our little ones.

I think the most important part of technology use is finding balance — and not falling into the trap of using screens as a distraction when our little ones are seeking, or in need of, connection.

There can be an alarming amount of labeling by members of what is and isn’t AP and who is and isn’t “AP enough,” and I feel like my most important role as an API Leader when these hot-topic issues come up is reminding everyone that it’s all about finding the balance of what works best for our individual families while maintaining an active, involved attachment to our children regardless of what personal decisions we make.

Get inspired with this fun children’s mindfulness exercise

logoforsiteEditor’s note: Celebrate Screen-Free Week, May 4-10, by turning off your screens and helping your children to unplug from digital entertainment. APtly Said will be encouraging families to connect with one another by not posting next week.

Whether or not you choose to participate in Screen-Free Week with your family — and whatever your approach to this event, whether a wholehearted all-or-nothing dive into a completely tech-free week or maybe dipping in a toe or two by going screen-free for a day or two and seeing what happens — this can be a wonderful opportunity for you and your family to get creative while exploring all kinds of fun, non-tech activities.

Yoga and mindfulness exercises, dancing, singing, story telling as well as reading are just some of a huge array of options. Maybe you have some ideas in mind already: Go ahead and try them out with your kids. If you want more inspiration, how about combining the above activities into one fun practice? How about getting your body moving along to some of your kids’ favorite stories?

Grab a favorite book. Any book will do here, but going with an easy, short and picture-based story with lots of animal characters might best facilitate the exercise. Sit down with your kids, cuddle up, read the story together. If you have kids who are already able to read by themselves, take turns in reading the story to each other page by page.

Start acting it out. Play around with voices, intonation, speed. Get into some body language. Have fun trying out different facial expressions. Move your arms and legs along with the story. Maybe at this point of the process, you will find yourselves standing up, walking, running, dancing and singing, or jumping across the room instead of sitting in the spot where you started out. Fantastic!

Now come up with matching yoga poses for the characters — imitating animals, plants, shapes like triangles, balls and houses that occur throughout the story. Take your breath along for the ride
here, taking deep, mindful inhales and exhales while playing around with different yoga poses.

Let this be a flowing process. Get creative and have fun. You don’t need to come up with a pre-drafted elaborate choreography before you present this activity to your kids. Rather, have the whole family be part of the process — inventing, creating, trying out, inspiring and surprising each other as you go.

In case you’d like to get started now and try this out, but feel overwhelmed, look for a story-based children’s yoga book at your local library or bookstore, such as Jasper’s Journey to the Yoga-Animals, and go from there. These books help by inspiring parents to read to their kids and move along with them, exploring yoga poses and mindful breathing exercises while listening to a fun story.

Whatever you decide to do during Screen-Free Week, I hope you and your kids have tons of fun along the way!

Screentime and Attachment Parenting

family-time-2-1380315-m There are issues that Attachment Parenting International (API) does not take a stance on — circumcision, vaccinations, cloth diapering and elimination communication, to name a few — and instead advocates for all parents to be informed when making parenting decisions that work best for their families. The same applies to choices about media access for children.

To me, Attachment Parenting (AP) doesn’t mean we’ll achieve perfection or that all AP parents will come to the same conclusions. It means we’ve made a commitment to inform ourselves and make conscious choices. We can all respectfully “agree to disagree” when parents have informed themselves and understand the pros and cons. Biases and prejudices should have very little — nothing! — to do with it. Have we considered the research? Have we carefully observed the dynamics in our own families? Can we tell whether media is connecting or disconnecting parents and children in our homes?

kara cardenFor my family, I want media to be an event, not a lifestyle. I want my kids to be able to happily go for weeks without using it! So occasionally, if I see symptoms of dependency, we go on “detox” and course-correct — basically by getting busy with other things. I want us — adults and children — to use media, not have it use us. And I certainly don’t want media — with all it’s commercial motivations — to cheat my kids out of time to be creative, to be helpful, to be thoughtful, to just be.

For us, that means once or twice a week, we consume a little media, mostly together. The other six days, it’s just not an option. That’s how we thrive best.

For some of my AP friends, that’s way more than the none they believe is best. Compared to other AP families, our media use is a fraction of what happens in their homes.

Information and discernment can lead us to our own version of balance. This can change depending on the age and stage of our children, which is completely aligned with API’s focus on the importance of understanding child development needs.

I think it’s important for parents to take a good, close look at the research and have an open, honest conversation with others. Instead of judging or lobbying for one “side” or another on media use, the focus can be on informing ourselves together. Just being willing to ask the question, knowing that answers may be variable, would be a great service to our AP communities.