As I have learned more about the effects of technology and gaming overuse in young children, I have consistently been taken back to the basics of brain development. It is very important to understand how our experiences affect our brain and how technology changes the experiences in childhood. Childhood is a very impressionable time where the window of opportunity for learning and development is pretty short. While our brain is able to develop after childhood the neuronal pathways we set as children will be the foundation for the rest of our lives.
In simple terms, each new experience creates a neuronal pathway in your child’s brain. As he learns a new skill, those neurons fire for the first time. This new pathway (or dirt road as I like to call it) is scary, hard to travel and full of potholes and rocks! As the child learns the new skill the road becomes paved and more comfortable and fun. In this slide (taken from a recent MMM presentation) you can see that repetition is key for our children (or anyone) to learn a new skill and be comfortable with it.
The take away points are:
Learning new skills are hard at first. Language, reading, writing and math are hard for your child in the beginning but they get easier as your child practices those skills and ‘pave’ those neuronal pathways (roads).
Tech roads are easy. If gaming and technology is introduced too early, your child may prefer paving those easy roads with his time and brain energy instead of the harder roads. While technology is a dirt road for some parents, it is not much of a dirt road for children. Games are not designed to be hard, if they were your child would lose interest too soon. Rather they are designed to be very easy, exciting, fun and addictive for the player (so they will keep playing). Over time if you don’t keep it balanced, your child will end up with many dirt roads in the hard necessary areas and only paved roads in the area of shallow technology and game use.
Manage it wisely mom and know that there will be plenty of time for your child to dive into technology once his major pathways are paved well! As my 16 year old daughter recently said, “Technology fixes everything so you don’t have to think so hard.” She nailed it on the head!
How do you pave a dirt road? You use it often even when it it frustrating and not so much fun. Eventually it will get easier and the pay off is awesome! Encourage your child to work on paving a dirt road today!