It's the easiest thing to do. Thrust a mobile phone into the hands of your infant to quieten her down. Her response is immediate and gives you the relief you so desperately seek. But did you know that watching any screen, be it a phone, i-pad, computer, television or video game, is one of the most damaging things for your child's brain development?
Here's why 0-2 years is a critical time for brain development.
1. Brain development occurs most rapidly and easily from 0-3 years.
2. 90% of the brain weight is gained by 2 years.
3. 85% of a child's intellectual and social development takes place by age 5 years.
4. The neural pathways in the brain form new connections at the rate of 700 -1000 per second. The early synaptic connections ( a synapse is a complex membrane or junction that transmits signals between brain cells) are critical for the child's lifelong capacity to learn, adapt to change, build resilience, physical and mental health.
5. Watching screens from 0-2 years interferes with the healthy development of these neural connections. Research and imaging reveal that watching screens prompts the neural pathways to develop in a linear direction instead of a healthy network that connects the left and right sides of the brain. We receive information in one area of the brain and it must travel through the neural network to reach the appropriate area for understanding and acting upon the information. A weak and scant neural network hinders or slows down this process of development.
There are several healthier ways to quieten and settle your baby. Firstly tune in to what is making the baby uncomfortable and attend to her need. She could be tired, sleepy, hungry, thirsty, cold, warm or wet. if she is plain cranky, distract her with a song or a toy, object or something in the environment. Facial expressions grab their attention and interest. Most importantly, anticipate situations that are potentially distressing for your child. Avoid them as far as possible and have a repertoire of things to do along with her during her moments of discomfort. Do whatever else it takes, but do not reach for the screen gadgets.
New York State Association for Infant Mental Health © 2017. All Rights Reserved.
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