Put the Screens Away:  Parenting Tips from Lisa Hunt-Wotton

In this information age, industrial scientists have found out that people’s attention span lasts for about two and a half minutes.  Before the internet we actually had longer trains of thought.  It is now widely known that interrupted brain spans are not healthy for the brain.  When we are on the internet or on screens a lot, it is actually training our brains to have scattered thoughts and low attention spans.   It is possible to change this, the brain is plastic and it with activity and mental experience it can be rewired (Doidge).

When my children were small, the only screens available were the TV and a handheld donkey kong.  Even so, my husband and I were very conscious of limiting screen time. I have a passion for stories and wanted my children to grow up appreciating literature.  I also believed that it was important for children to learn how to have quiet time.  I think silence and quiet time is the greatest gift that I have given my children.

Around the age of two, when they are starting to move out of the afternoon nap,  I substituted the nap time for quiet time.  They had to spend about an hour on their own on a mat in the lounge, quietly reading, playing with creative toys like leggo, duplo, dollies, or drawing.

If it was a sunny day I would put a mattress out on the porch and they would sit outside.  I would be nearby quietly gardening or reading.  They were allowed to talk to themselves, sing, sit and lay down.  They were not allowed to walk around or yell out to me.  To make this time more captivating, there were different boxes of ‘special’ toys, books, that only got bought out at quiet time.

child is dressed in an astronaut costume

child is dressed in an astronaut costume

When we went on holidays, we chose destinations with no power.  On purpose.  This meant no TV and no movies.  Don’t faint.  

It did allow for lots of creative play.
Walks through the forest, making speed boats out of sand which they played in for hours.  Making cubbies from bush branches, twigs, rope.  Making floating rafts.  Making undercover cubbies inside.  Usually four or five large blankets thrown over an assortment of chairs and table.  Lots of reading and lots of craft.  Lots of walks and story making and impromptu games.  They made up their own card games as they got older.

What about early mornings?

Well my children were early risers and without TV to keep them quiet it was a challenge.  Thankfully they had always been taught to have quiet time.  So the afternoon quiet time was swapped for the mornings.  I would make up boxes of interesting craft.  Everything that would be needed for interesting and successful craft in one colourful box, along with a drink and a special snack.  Each child had their own box which would sit on the end of the bed.  They were not allowed to open it until the morning when they woke up and it was packed away until the next morning.  They would sit quietly playing until the rest of the family started to wake up.  This was ususally for about an hour.

What is my point?

It is up to us as parents to train and teach our children to know what it is to be able to sit quietly when needed.  I see so many children that cannot do this.  Please understand, my kids were raging lunatics, they were not quiet passive little pets.  This was a learned thing.  When my boys were 3 and 5 we bought a house in a semi rural area.  We actually said to the agent that we would buy the property without even looking inside the house.  The yard was far more important.  We wanted somewhere for two little boys to grow and explore and have adventures. Creeks to ford, frogs and rabbits to catch, camp fires in the back yard and plenty of room for cubby houses.

**I understand that not everyone can do this but there are so many great parks and green spaces available to take kids.

IMG_5327 (1)

Our backyard Kerry Road

IMG_5132 (2)

It is the job of parents to:

  1. Think creatively ahead of time and prepare things like special craft boxes, activity books, special story books.
  2. Participate in the activities.
  3. Encourage creative play and problem solving.
  4. Get involved in projects.  I spent hours in the creek with my boys.
  5. Go for walks.

It is proven that when we walk outside and take in new environments, we trigger growth programmes in the brain.  We actually trigger new connections in the brain.  Dementia is accelerated with a sedentary life style (Doidge).

Outdoor activities help develop problem solving skills. Climb a tree, build a billy cart from an old pram, fix a cubby house, sleep outside under the stars and many other cheap and easy activities.  These skills will serve them well into adult hood.

It is becoming more widely known that reading exposure during the critical stage of development prior to kindergarten seems to have a meaningful, measurable impact on how a child’s brain processes stories and may help predict reading success, said study author John Hutton.

Of particular importance are the brain areas supporting mental imagery, helping the child “see the story beyond the pictures, affirming the invaluable role of imagination” (Hutton).

Children with ADHD, and learning difficulties can all be helped by creative learning.  “It is possible to treat learning disabilities by identifying and strengthening cognitive functions”(Barbara Arrow Smith Young).


Screen time is creating subtle damage even in children with “regular” exposure, considering that the average child clocks in more than seven hours a day (Rideout 2010).

I hear comments like:  He can’t focus, he is totally defiant, getting ready for school or night time is a nightmare,  she has meltdowns and is exhausted even if she’s had enough sleep.

Dr Victoria Dunckley says:   “As a practitioner, I observe that many of the children I see suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyperaroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what I call electronic screen syndrome. These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention” (Victoria Dunckley).

‘In short, excessive scree-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Multiple studies have shown that shrinkage or loss of tissue volume in the brain, where processing occurs, happens with internet addiction.    Much of the damage occurs in the brains frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties.  Frontal love development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life.  From sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills’.

Parents:

  1. Use this research to strengthen your own parental position on screen management
  2. Think creatively about the alternatives
  3. Spend time with your children, engage with them
You won’t regret it.  You are teaching them skills that will enable them to engage in down time as adults and setting them up for a life of peace and giving them skills which will help them navigate this frantic frenetic life in which we live.

Love Lisa.

****If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people.Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

https://www.patreon.com/SundayEveryday


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recommended Reading:

Victoria Dunckley has just released a new book on this subject called “Reset Your Childs Brain”.  You can click on the image to purchase through Amazon or go to:

http://www.ResetYourChildsBrain.com 

Doidge, Norman.  “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”.  Click the book to purchase through Amazon.

  • Hutton, John.  MD, National Research Service Award Fellow, Division of General and Community Pediatrics, Reading and Literacy Discovery Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
  • Lin, Fuchun, Yan Zhou, Yasong Du, Lindi Qin, Zhimin Zhao, Jianrong Xu, and Hao Lei. “Abnormal White Matter Integrity in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder: A Tract-Based Spatial Statistics Study.” PloS One 7, no. 1 (2012): e30253. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030253.

7 Comments on “Put the Screens Away by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

  1. I also grew up with little tv time. I wasn’t nor bad nor wonderful. It was what we got. 1-2 hours of cartoons every Saturday and Sunday. This is how I learned (a simplistic) English and some of my teachers admitted they weren’t the ones teaching us its perks. In the long run, I think it wasn’t so bad. I am really curious how other children, colleagues of your children, evolved by comparison? Did less tv and quiet time had a great impact on them on the long-term? Loved your article by the way.

    Like

    • Hi Silvia, great to hear from you and some really interesting insights. I’m not sure I could measure development. I do know that we have a houseboat that we regualarly visit. It does not have electricity so you have to make your own entertainment. The kids have grown up with this, and having learned how to have quiet time and to read, they relish that space alone now. I also know that it has caused angst in the past inviting friends because some of the friends would not enjoy themselves or know what to do on a holiday with no power I.E.: no TV or Screens, let alone hair dryers and games. Thanks for your connection. Lisa.

      Like

  2. Hi lisa, thanks for posting this and referring to my article and website as a resource. My book on this most important topic just got released this month; see http://www.ResetYourChildsBrain.com for more details.

    It’s essentially an expansion of the page you referred to in your article. (btw last name is Dunckley – would you mind changing it in article for SEO purposes?)

    Anyway your point about quiet moments is critical…parents are often concerned about kids being “bored” when I discuss screen-time restrictions, but boredom serves a purpose. It forces the mind to wander inwardly, make connections about thoughts, feelings and experiences, and act on one’s physical environment in a natural way to obtain stimulation.

    Thanks again! 🙂
    Victoria

    p.s. Brad- couldn’t agree more. looking back I think growing we watched tv once a week at night, and for an hour or so on Sat mornings. I have many memories of wandering around thinking and dreaming, even as a child. Kids and adults need this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Victoria, so great to hear from you and thank you for the amazing work that you are doing. Im so sorry I will correct your name asap.
      Boredom, now theres a thought. Im not sure that anyone has time for that any more.lol…
      I love day dreaming, wandering, watching….. This is a great topic.
      Love Lisa.

      Like

  3. Some very good points. I grew up in a similar way with limited TV time and time when I was encouraged to be quiet and occupy myself. I think it put me in good stead. Now with my life a lot more distracted (but not as much as with some) I can look back to those quiet times and consciously make an effort to still give myself those times… time without the computer on and time instead for a book. It seems a lot of people who grew up without this balance must struggle a lot more.

    Like

    • Brian, so nice to hear from you. I think its important that the skill is there. We may not draw on it as much as we should but we have the ability to draw back into quiet times. If you haven’t learned that skill its a little harder. Like anything it is a discipline.
      Lisa.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply I would really love to hear from you and I'm sure that others would be interested in your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: