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How Screen Time Affects Your Kid’s Brain

How Screen Time Affects Your Kid’s Brain

Ever wondered if all that screen time is negatively affecting your child’s brain? Bad news, I am afraid. According to all the experts, this electronic screen syndrome (ESS) is causing sleep deprivation, social isolation, behavior problems, and a hyper aroused nervous system.

Some paediatricians have estimated that up to 80% of the kids they are seeing who are being medicated for ADHD, anxiety, depression and mood swings do not have these disorders at all. There are simpler remedies like reducing screen time, for example. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on cutting down screen time (at present a whopping 7 hours a day) are listed here.

Parents and teachers have noticed how too much screen time is making kids surly, bored and are permanently “wired and tired”. But what is actually happening to the child’s brain? Researchers have shown that the frontal lobe development is actually being retarded by all this screen time. This is the part of the brain which is responsible for the child’s attention span, controlling emotions and empathic skills. Staying connected may mean that your child is becoming disconnected from real life!

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Let us look now at how screen time is affecting your child’s brain.

Screen time is interfering with brain development

It is scary to think that a child’s brain is growing at an enormous rate and in the first year of life, it actually grows by 300%. Now, let the baby look at a ball rolling across a tablet screen. It is a two dimensional process and there is no tactile or other stimuli. Let the child play with a real ball and she will experience three dimensions, the movement, grab it, touch it or even try to eat it. The child is experiencing the real world and that can never be replaced by what is happening on a screen.

Screen time is delaying learning to talk

The best way to get a child to talk is by interacting and talking to him. The kid can watch the facial expressions, smile, hear the tone of voice, experiment with the sounds and notice the body language. All these are essential and complex processes in learning to talk. No screen, game or video can replace the joy of learning from human interaction. A robot might, but let’s not go there!

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Screen time can reduce the number of words a child learns

Did you know that a parent uses 940 words an hour when chatting to a toddler? Guess what happens when the TV is on. The number of words the parent uses falls to 770. That means the toddler is learning fewer words over time.

Screen time can affect a child’s physical and mental health

There are lots of studies that show that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for a child’s or teen’s physical health. One study shows that watching more than 2 hours of TV a day led to poor physical fitness, lower self-esteem and poorer academic achievement.

What can we do as parents?

There are innumerable factors such as the home environment, social economic status and school which can also negatively impact a child’s development. But one inescapable fact is that too much screen time is preventing our kids from doing sports, reading, playing outdoors, and talking (and fighting!) with siblings.

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Reducing screen time is one suggestion which does not cost you a cent. At the worst, nothing will change although it is difficult to imagine that things might be worse.

An excellent book to help you actually carry out this is Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time by Dr. Victoria Dunckley. She recommends that parents implement a strict electronic ‘fast’ just for a few weeks. There can be a dramatic improvement in sleep quality, mood, focus and behavior.

Many parents will recoil from the idea of having to stop their children using cell phones and laptops for a while. The book is full of practical suggestions on how to do this. The rewards are well worth the initial effort and struggle.

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Featured photo credit: iPad screen time/woodleywonderworks via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Freelance writer

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Published on August 8, 2018

How Guided Meditation for Kids Can Boost Learning and Social Skills

How Guided Meditation for Kids Can Boost Learning and Social Skills

Do you want the best for your kid? Of course you do!

Boosting your kid’s learning ability and social skills in less than 20 minutes a day? That’s where guided meditation for kids comes in.

You have probably heard a lot about meditation the last couple years. As there’s more and more research in the area of meditation, a lot of people finally start to see the benefits.

A subject that’s not talked about too much is that meditation can also help kids grow incredible learning and social skills.

Meditation for kids is becoming more popular every day as parents want their kids to see the benefits too.

What is guided meditation for kids?

First things first, what exactly is the guided meditation for kids that is talked about in this article?

We can define meditation with the help of Headspace:[1]

Meditation is about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.

And according to GuidedMind, guided meditation is:[2]

Guided meditation is when you are guided, by a narrator, to elicit a specific change in your life. You are first guided to relax your body and mind, to help you reach a deep meditative state before going on a journey, in your mind, to reach a specific goal.

If you want to get into guided meditation, read this:

The Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day)

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As you may know, there are a lot of variations on meditation. This includes:

  • Mindfulness, focusing on the breath while accepting everything that’s happening (thoughts, sounds, etc.).
  • (Guided) Visualization, visualizing a particular event, environment, feeling, etc.
  • Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM), focusing on the breath and the heart while feeling at one with everything. A focus on downward energy flow within the body.
  • Transcendental Meditation (TM), this technique is literally about transcending the negative through internal mantras.
  • Qi Gong, this is a form of meditation that is done through specific movement patterns while focusing on the breath.
  • Kundalini focuses on the upward flow of energy within the body. Focusing on that energy with your breath gives you a higher sense of consciousness.
  • Zazen, sitting with a back straight while focusing on deep breaths.

You can find out more about different forms in this article:

17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

All these forms of meditation can be done individually or guided. Guided meditation for kids is the best choice because it will make it easier for them to follow and understand.

The benefits of meditation for kids

There are a lot of benefits meditation has to offer, but the most important benefit is that it relieves stress. In this time and age, this becomes more important than ever.

(Post-)millennials are dealing with a lot of stress due to the amount of work pressure, opportunities (decision making) and student loan debt (which results in wanting early financial success).[3]

Making sure children are stress resistant is of high importance for the future of their lives.

Of course, there are way more benefits to meditation. So, to convince you further; here follow more benefits to meditation.

There are precisely 76 benefits to meditation which are scientifically proved.[4] But the main benefits of meditation are:

  • Improved concentration[5]
  • Increased happiness[6]
  • Slows down the aging process[7]
  • Increased immunity[8] and cardiovascular health[9]
  • Improved mood and brain power

Here I’m going to look into some of meditation’s benefits that parents care about most:

Boost learning ability

The question is: ‘How does meditation for kids improve learning ability?’

There are, of course, multiple answers but there’s one simple answer; concentration. As you read earlier on in this article, meditation improves the ability to concentrate.

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If the ability to concentrate increases, it will lead to an increased attention span which is one of the factors that affect learning.

By implementing guided meditation into your kids’ life; he/she will become a better learner.

Another reason to increase the attention span of your child beside learning is that our average attention span per person is decreasing exponentially because of all the distractions that we have around us.

The more we let distractions in, the less easy it becomes to really focus on something. This is because it takes us 23 minutes to get into something after being distracted.[10]

Improve social skills

The way meditation for kids improves the social skills of the meditator is through the sense of presence it creates.[11] Being present in a conversation is more important than you may think.

Do you know those people who are just way up in their head which makes it hard to have an in-depth conversation with?

They probably don’t meditate.

By being present in a conversation, you can better understand the person you’re talking to. Not being carried away by your thoughts makes it easier to process the information the other is providing. Including non-verbal signs, you may never have noticed if you weren’t present.

Meditation for kids also improves charisma because of the loving nature that grows from meditating. Especially the kindness and gratitude focused forms of meditation for kids. By being more kind and grateful; your kid will increase in charisma and feeling of interconnectedness which will improve social skills.

Last but not least, implementing guided meditation for kids in the form of guided meditation by you (the parent) will likely improve the relationship between you and your child.

This creates the opportunity to educate your child on specific social skills you’ve picked up and the other way around. Also, a child is very dependent on its environment.

By increasing social skills yourself, you will improve the social skills of your child.

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How to get started with guided meditation for kids

Below follows a step-by-step process on how to implement guided meditation for kids into your kids’ life.

Step 1: Do it yourself first

Have you ever tried learning Spanish from someone who doesn’t speak Spanish? No, because it doesn’t make sense!

This is the same for meditation for kids. If you want to teach your kid how to meditate, you will first have to do it yourself.

Pick a form of meditation for kids you think would work best and get the hang of it. Follow guided meditation via YouTube or any platform you like.

Suggestions: Visualization meditation, body scan meditation or simple mindfulness.

There’s an easy guide on meditation you can do anywhere at any time:

The 5-Minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

Step 2: Expose your kid to the practice

By exposing your kid to the practice without him/her knowing, its intention will raise their curiosity. This makes it easier to convince them afterward.

Meditate in the presence of them; put your earplugs in and start meditating while they are around. When they talk to you or touch you while you’re meditating, keep meditating until they walk away.

When you’re done, you can explain what you were doing and why you were doing and ask to do it together. Explain it in a way, so they understand it.

Here’s an article that will help you explain mindfulness to your kid:

Mindfulness: What it is and How to Explain it to Kids and Adults

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Tip: Make it sound like it’s very special (which it is) so that they’ll grow their curiosity and excitement even more.

Step 3: Do it together

Now that you have the interest of your child and know the essence of meditation you can finally do it together. Guide them through the meditation or put on the meditation you followed before.

Make it a fun and enjoyable experience for your child at first while keeping the essence of meditation in mind.

As you and your child progress you may want to make it more serious.

Step 4: Let your child express himself/Herself entirely

You will get a lot of insights about your feelings and thoughts through meditation. Your child will also experience these things and may want to express it.

Ask your child after the meditation what he/she experienced or felt. Let them get rid of everything that’s bothering them.

Step 5: Be consistent

As you do it more frequently; you will build a habit for you and your kid that will benefit you both. Reward them after each meditation.

Make it a fun experience instead of something they must do. Don’t push it.

Step 6: Be calm and let it be

Again, don’t push it and don’t expect anything. You want to get your child into meditation for kids so he/she can benefit from it in the long run. But you can’t decide for your kid if he/she wants it or not.

You will have to educate yourself first before you can train your child. Read books or articles about meditation for kids and try your best.

Conclusion

Here’s a summary of the key points you have learned by reading this article:

  • You now know what (guided) meditation for kids is.
  • You know why it’s so important to include (guided) meditation into your and your kids’ life.
  • You know how (guided) meditation for kids helps improve the learning ability of your kid.
  • You know how (guided) meditation for kids helps improve the social skills of your kid.
  • You have the steps you can follow to implement meditation for kids into your kids’ life.

Good luck and start meditating with your kids!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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