Sherri Husch-Foote, executive director of Midwest Family Connections, spoke to the Rotary Club of Lloydminster on Monday on the negative affects of technology screen time on toddlers’ ability to learn. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO
Even small doses of technology screen time are putting children behind the eight ball by the time they are ready for kindergarten.
One in four local youngsters is not ready to learn today due to the affect of exposure from electronic screen time on speech, cognitive development and emotional development according to Early Development Instrument (EDI) data.
“We’ll be launching a campaign to help families have the right information about screen time,” said Sherri Husch-Foote, executive of Midwest Family Connections.
Husch-Foote spoke to the Rotary Club of Lloydminster on Monday on the findings of EDI surveys on screen time, which includes exposure to computers, televisions and smart phones, for example.
The EDI conducted by Lloydminster kindergarten teachers involving all students, covered the period 2009-2013 and provincially in 2016.
“The provincial data is showing children are not doing as well in areas of speech and language, so we really want to get the word out to families that what we think about screen time is not true when we think about young children,” said Husch-Foote.
She said the research authority is the Canadian Paediatric Society, which recommends zero screen time for children from birth to age two.
She said screen time has a negative impact on speech, cognitive development and emotional regulation, because there is an instant gratification that comes from technology that is user driven.
This compares to a relationship with where there has to be a give and take exchange.
Husch-Foote told Rotary that love builds brains and that parents or adults are a child’s best toy.
“It’s the serve and return interaction with an adult that builds the brain architecture,” she said.
“Technology interrupts that serve and return and children don’t get the same feedback when they are looking at a screen as when they are talking to a person who mirrors them and engages with them.”
She said screen time needs to be replaced with day-to-day interactions like singing, laughing, playing and doing chores together and singing in the car.
Husch-Foote said one of the concerns of the upcoming information campaign is to make sure families don’t feel criticized in this process.
She said reasons parents expose toddlers to screen time range from trying to balance all of their responsibilities and distracting their children while they are doing chores, to the belief that it’s actually going to increase their children’s speech and language development.
“What we know from the research is that the impact is the opposite,” said Husch-Foote, who hopes to spread the word.
“We know families are squeezed for time and quality child care—we want to give them the right information so they can make the best decisions possible.”
She said she came to Rotary hoping to accomplish an increased level of awareness with parents, grandparents and employers in the audience.
“As a community, we need to encourage and support parents,” she said.
Husch-Foote explained Midwest is a non-profit organization serving families in Lloydminster and the surrounding area.
“We provide early learning programming, so play-based programming for parents and children to participate in together,” she said.
Midwest also provides in-home support for families along with parent education, development screening, info and referral and a number of specialized services.