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How excessive use of digital devices affects young children

Today, many parents use digital devices to keep young children entertained or distracted while they juggle other needs. But, they must understand how critical it is to provide off-screen experiences. Then children will learn, improve their social and cognitive skills and stay healthier.

Children learn the most from human interaction. Their brains during the earliest years are more sensitive to the environments around them. For a brain to develop and grow, it needs essential stimuli from the outside

world. More importantly, they need time to process those stimuli. For example, reading storybooks gives children time to process words, images and voices; while the constant absorption of on-screen images and messages affects their attention span and focus.

Young children have memory and attentional skills that are not able to learn well from digital devices. They have difficulty transferring what they have learned from two-dimensional media forms and translating it to the three-dimensional real world. If young children are constantly being exposed to screens, their ability is reduced to read human emotion and control their frustration. They cannot rely on themselves for entertainment or problem solving and this leads them to frustration, hinders imagination and motivation. It also detracts from activities that help boost their brain power, like play and interacting with other children.

Let's explore the unpleasant effects of screens on young children in more detail

Digital devices reduce empathy

Researches have shown that screen time inhibits young children’s ability to read faces and learn social skills. There are important factors that are needed to develop empathy such as face-to-face interactions that are the only way young children learn to understand non-verbal cues and interpret them.

Speech Setbacks Toddlers

Toddlers are not learning to talk because of exposure to screens. Most parents are worried about their children’s speech, language and communication skills. A study of 900 toddlers in Canada found a clear link between screen time and delayed speech development in children under the age of two years old.

Children who used devices such as iPads and iPhones had a higher risk of an expressive language problem at 18 months of age.

Toddlers who use touchscreens are less able to resist distraction

Children who use touchscreen devices regularly are quicker to notice new objects in their line of vision and less able to ignore distractions. Those expose more in screen time having higher risk of internalising problems like anxiety, aggression and depression.

Now let’s discuss the Montessori method and the role of digital devices

The integration of technology in the Montessori classroom is done carefully and thoughtfully. Children are not learning with devices but rather have limited access to devices at the appropriate age to use as supplemental tools to their learning. Technology in the Montessori classroom is a tool but not a central element to the curriculum.

Montessori materials are hands-on learning tools that are designed to provide children with opportunities to discover key learning outcomes through repetition and practice. Each material teaches one skill at a time and is intentionally designed to support independent learning, figuring out and problem-solving.

However, technology use in a Montessori school looks very different than it does in a mainstream school. This is because the Montessori philosophy and method, has specific ideas about the classroom environment.

In general, the Montessori approach aims to first consider the development of the child, then decide whether a specific task can be completed in the physical/sensorial world. If a child is old enough, and if the goal

can only be accomplished by using technology. This approach leads to a rather decreased amount of screen time in comparison to many conventional school settings, but children still have opportunities to interact with technology in meaningful ways when appropriate. So, it is our duty to help the child to learn how to use technology responsibly.

Noush is one of Little Gems Montessori guides in Nicosia. For the past two years, Noush has been working with our littluns 2 to 3+ years old in the Sapphire classroom – an interactive environment indeed. Hands-on experiences are key to the children’s development particularly in the early years as they offer problem-solving, thinking & understanding, social interaction, develop concentration and figuring out through “doing”. The Montessori materials are therefore essential activities. On the other hand, technology cannot be ignored in today’s society as it is constantly around us. Little Gems staff has therefore researched and embraced this development where we have managed to incorporate the use of technology by using it in an effective, treasured and educational way.

Would you like to learn more about technology in the early years Montessori environment? Please contact us by email: Tel: +357 22351319.


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