Wanderlust: Expat Life & Style in Thailand The Relationships Issue - Page 40

Kids & Education


Jon Winfield gives sound advice about children ’ s use of screens in this column by Brighton College in Bangkok .
Q :” How much is ‘ too much ’ screen time for children ? I understand children need to be able to use technology , and iPads and computers have become essential learning tools , but how do we achieve a balance ?”
A : Many parents wonder about screen time for children , indicating a pervasive sense there may be a point beyond which smart phone and tablet use becomes excessive — or potentially damaging — even if we are not sure exactly why that may be the case .
While children need to be familiar with the technology shaping their future , we should also consider the weight of social expectation linked to screen use that rests on the shoulders of children . In fact , I can personally relate to this matter : When I was a child , my mother banned me from watching a particular TV show because it “ set a bad example .” She may have been right , but every morning that show was the topic of almost every conversation on the playground , and I was left out .
Today , my children ( and likely yours , too ) face a similar kind of social pressure about being able to discuss with their friends the latest games , apps and YouTube channels . I would like my children to be involved in those conversations and to be accepted by their peer groups . When the rest of the class is sharing a joke on Line , I want them to be involved ; I want to protect them from the exclusion that I felt . Yet , I don ’ t want them to overindulge in screens and miss out on other aspects of their childhood . It ’ s the kind of dilemma that can keep a parent awake at night .
Over the past 10 to 15 years , neuroscience research has transformed our understanding of how the brain develops throughout childhood . Early childhood sees the brain undergo an amazing period of development , producing 700 new neural connections every second . Before age 12 , children readily soak up new experiences , form connections , and learn at astonishing rates . ( This will come as no surprise to any parent who has looked on in awe at how quickly his or her child has learned a new musical instrument or language .)
Grey matter peaks at around age 12 , after which a process referred to as ‘ synaptic pruning ’ takes place . Into adolescence and early adulthood , any connections that are no longer used are removed as the brain streamlines itself and loses the benefit of these early experiences .