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Are your kids after using screen technology?

by Beverley Paine, Dec 2016

I've been thinking lately about the personality changes some of us see our children experiencing after immersing in anything related to screen technology (TV, video & computer games, etc). My son (now 30) would turn into a grumpy horror after watching TV for as little as half an hour early in the day - watching in the evening seemed to be fine. We are a family of highly sensitive people and suffer mood swings as well as exhaustion from over stimulation, especially social over stimulation.

Perhaps the complexity of thought processes that are required when we interact with characters and detailed plots that demand us to solve puzzles or problems, as well as determine who is going to do what next and how to respond to that, in these games is working on that part of our brain that handles social learning? This ties together with a comment my son made when about aged 15: he said that he gets lost in the story, becomes the character he is playing and doesn't want to 'come out of the story', wants to stay there forever because it's 'better than real life'. He self-identified it as addictive, and I related to him how I quit reading novels because I felt exactly the same.

Visual information via screens is packed with detail and for some of us we strive to take in as much detail as we can and try to make sense of it. I can't handle 3D movies because the background isn't in focus and my eyes are constantly scanning the screen for information - I get frustrated and feel restricted by needing to follow what the director has decided I should watch closely. Plus, our eyes are designed to notice novelty and movement, so if a screen is on in a room our eyes are instantly drawn to it - I believe this is a survival instinct at work. It is hard to ignore, and for some of us we can't ignore making sense of what we're seeing, and that takes brain energy and time. Being 'switched on' all the time by visual stimulation can be stressful and exhausting.

When it comes to self-regulation we need to help our kids develop an awareness of who they are as people, what their individual needs are... We're all different, we respond to things in our environment differently. Tuning into who are kids are, what their needs are and how we can help them meet those needs is our job as educating parents. For me and my son it was working out that there are times of the day when screen technology didn't work for him and times when it did. For others, parents playing alongside the children helps both understand what is happening and why.

Play is how our children learn - it's actually how everyone learns - best. When play results in unhelpful behaviour (as in, not safe for self or others) rather than simply stop or ban the play, let's explore what is actually going on and what elements of the play are causing stress, and how necessary is that stress to the play, and if there is anything that can be done to lessen or eliminate that stress effect. Let's help the child get to identify and know their abilities, strengths and limits and what works and doesn't work for them.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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