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Prevention around screens

Psychomotor Development in Early Childhood.

The screens, such as television, smartphones, and tablets, are not recommended for very young children due to their potential negative effects. These devices can be harmful because they promote passivity and limit essential activities for a child's development, such as movement, experimentation, manipulation, and creation. Studies have shown that children who are excessively exposed to screens can suffer from various disorders, including language delays, attention problems, learning difficulties, sleep disturbances, obesity, and anxiety. In some cases, early and excessive exposure to screens can even lead to a syndrome resembling autism, known as EPPE (Early and Excessive Screen Exposure). However, unlike autism, the symptoms associated with screen exposure can improve with reduced or discontinued exposure.

The baby's brain is not mature enough to fully process what it sees on the television. Babies are primarily attracted to the lights and sounds of the TV but are not able to "analyze" the content in a meaningful way. Being passive in front of the screen, they are somewhat hypnotized by it. The time a baby spends in front of a screen is time not spent manipulating, touching, and discovering the textures and shapes of their toys. Therefore, special programs for babies are not advisable.

Everyone knows Dora and her backpack! In this animated series, which aims to be interactive, she speaks directly to the child, asking them to repeat words, sometimes in English, or to count and participate in her choices. However, learning to speak is not just about repeating words. Language is meant for communication and exchange with others. In these types of shows, the child might respond, but the interaction is one-sided; the screen does not adapt to the child's responses. A child does not learn to speak from the television. If they repeat words in English, it is often without context. They might not be able to use that word in any context other than that of the animated show.

Under the age of 3, it is advised to avoid all types of screens. This requires a greater presence and involvement from caregivers, meaning it's not feasible to let the child watch TV just to have some quiet time. Instead, caregivers should engage with the child through activities like playing, reading books, and showing them things. This helps the child eventually develop the ability to engage in these activities independently, although it's a gradual process. Making this choice is part of an educational decision.

After the age of 3, it becomes appropriate to start introducing short videos on an occasional basis. It's important to choose content related to themes the child is interested in (such as animals, vehicles, cooking, etc.). Watching these videos should be a shared activity where caregivers watch with the child, comment on the content, and discuss what they see. This approach makes videos a shared experience like any other activity, helping to ensure the child is less passive. In this way, screen time can become an opportunity for discovery and learning.

When a child becomes familiar with screens, they may start to ask for more screen time than what is allowed, leading to frustration. In such cases, it's important to reestablish and clarify the boundaries and limits regarding screen time, such as the amount of time spent on screens, the time of day for screen use, and the days it's allowed (such as weekdays vs. weekends). Offering alternatives like reading, playing, drawing, or going for a walk can be effective ways to redirect their attention.

Accompanying this article, you might find an illustrative poster created by Serge Tisseron, providing advice on screen use according to the age of the child. Additionally, there may be an infographic from Hoptoys offering further insights and guidance on this topic.

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