Child, the Target of the Market & Speech
Dr Lalith Mendis
Methyl Phenidate (Ritalin) and other stimulants have done the Pharmaceutical circuit and are being freely prescribed for children with attention deficit, hyperactivity & impulsivity. Trigger happy doctors easily diagnose & label ADHD. Once upon a time research created drugs for diseases. Now upon a time research creates diseases for drugs. Toys, digital gadgets, cartoons, digital games, confectionaries, junk food all target the child & even fashion – developing mutually enhancing addictions & addictive behaviour.
Neurones & Brain Chemicals
Stimulation by the Pixel screen has direct effect on the way neurones in the brain tracts behave – moving from preferred directional firing to non-preferred multidirectional firing while neurochemical transmitters move out of the optimal range of homeostasis to extreme ends. The former promotes a delicious cycle beginning in the dorsolateral part of the prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) where executive empathic planning is initiated. A child completes a healthy “initiation, navigation, conclusion, reward” cycle. Reward comes from the appreciation given by the supervising senior (if not parent someone who deeply cares). Child develops a healthy top down regulation, creative habits, reflective thinking, management & initiation.
When the child has no initiating supervisor and is left to digital screen & circular activity the child develops a vicious cycle, being moved by bottom up regulation – responding to anything he repetitively hears, sees & does, with the ventero-medial part of the PFC linking with the Amygdala & other subcortical structures. The Child develops disruptive, reflexive, disorderly behaviour with jitteriness, short attention span, poor memory, poor connections, dyspathy, poor collation & poor recall. The neurones fire in a non-preferred multidirectional pattern. Working memory becomes poor.
It is for these reasons that Prof Manfred Spitzer, reputed Neuropsychiatrist advised Germany to limit exposure of children to digital screen in his famous book Digitale Demenz.
Speech & Language
American Pediatric Academy recommends children below 2 years should not be given the digital screen as it scrambles speech. Often the cause of speech defect is that mom gave no time for speech interaction. Child best picks up phonemes in the first 3 years from mom. In the first year he can pick up any language. Mother says “goo” & girl says “gle” & together they make google.com as mom breast feeds babe. Attention is firstly spiritual & emotional, then only intellectual. When no attention is given child does not learn attention & speech suffers because speech learning needs empathy. In the twin tragedy of no parental time & supplanting digital nanny – speech, language & handwriting suffer first. All exposure to TV & digital stuff works against speech formation. Child best learns phonemes from natural voice about what he sees, touches & does. LED screen takes child away from 3D sense, sight, touch that wires brain space sense for future brilliance. Spatial tracts of the brain lay infrastructure for other tracts to build up. This is why we use moulding & take aim games in our Empathic Learning Centre.
Please don’t deprive your child of valuable brain wiring – Sports stretched & wired child’s spatial sense. All natural activity promotes 3D sight, touch & spatial sense. 2D screen limits brain wiring. Child needs to bring objects up close for observation. Frictional effort of colouring with pastel, pencil or brush improves hand- eye- spatial coordination and should not be substituted with easy digital colouring. Such manual effort improves handwriting which feeds speech. Proprioception = spatial sense is a strong brain wirer. Child has an internal speech when he uses manual toys (speaking to dolls) which is lost when passively following antics of digital screen.
Speech, language & handwriting are the casualties of the global digital putsch – so intentionally targeting the child as he is born – market offering them varied digital & TV programs that will aid language skill. Researchers have proven that digital exposure before 2 years is the prime reason for speech defects. Digital screen takes away from the child 3D natural interplay – we touch & see all things 3D by nature. Kids 3D play with toys is drastically reduced when they are given digital stuff. Finger movement in 3D touch facilitates special sense & hand writing. Handwriting suffers with TV & digital activity of child less than 4 years. Watching programs don’t make children brilliant – writing & doing make them brilliant.
Why the digital screen interferes with speech, language & handwriting – speech is best absorbed in the first 3 years by hearing natural voice with empathy & engagement – loving people & doing what child hears – especially by focussing on meal time – hand eye mouth coordination of feeding himself with help. TV pours out voice & sight irrelevant & unintelligible to child – passive TV watching because adults do so. Addiction to flipping (un)smart screen limits special movement of finger, eye & hand.
I hope to follow up this article with digital effects on learning, memory, sleep & other areas parent need to do reality check & scientifically advise their kids. My books on this subject with references & sources are available from Vijitha Yapa, Sarasavi, Lake House Bookshops.