Can Your Child Learn From Observing If Their Eyes Are Always On a Screen?

Screen time is no substitution for observational learning. As our society is changing the overuse of electronics is a concern in regards to children’s learning at each age of development. Children learn so much about their world through observation and copying behaviors they see and the use of electronics is limiting their observations because their eyes are on a screen instead of watching the world around them. 

Consider young children, as new parents we see that when our children are very young they are watching us and learning from our behavior. We call this observational learning or modeling. Children will pick up a behavior and reproduce it and we as parents can often see ourselves in their behavior. Hopefully they are picking up on the good behaviors and we are trying to be good role models for them. We will hear them saying words that we say or reproducing mannerisms of ours. 

This is exciting to see how quickly they learn and how observant they are. But my concern is that very young children are watching us with our phones, they see how the phone is coming into the relationship. Some parents are constantly taking pictures of their child which distracts from the moment. So in this instance with very young children the phone is interrupting the interaction between parent and child.

As the child gets older the ability to learn through observation continues to be blocked by the phone or other electronic device. When my own children were young, before cell phones, I took them to a restaurant as an opportunity to teach them how to behave in that setting. Now parents go to restaurants and everyone at the table has their own device and no one is interacting. The observational learning is no longer happening. The child is missing the opportunity to engage in face-to face interactions with adults and peers. This is how social skills are learned and when they miss this lesson it can result in social anxiety as they get older and lower quality relationships overall. They need to learn how to read non-verbal cues, communicate effectively with others and develop relationships with others.

Then comes the teen years and this is when they become consumed with their own phone and miss so many opportunities to learn and experience the world around them. Continued use of the electronics results in a need for continued stimulation and an inability to delay gratification. According to Dr. Nicole Beurkens;

     “Because of the continual stimulation they tend to get bored more easily when life is not fast paced enough. This leads to a lower frustration tolerance and  the tendency to give up on tasks and situations without persevering or problem solving before moving on to the next thing.”

We need to remember what is important in parenting and what is the goal? I believe that  teaching our children to function in the world so they can hold a job, have relationships and handle the challenges that face them as they grow older is a goal. So it is our job to give them an understanding of how to interact with others, how to handle frustration, how to delay gratification and problem solve on their own. They need to be interacting with their world in order to learn these skills. Make sure you are creating an environment that allows this to happen and they will have the tools they need when it is time to leave home.

Written by Lisa Strong



                      

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