Eye contact not iContact

December 14, 2016 by Jorn Krige in Speech Therapist

Current statistics show that children between 8 and 18 years of age spend around 44.5 hours per week in front of screens (Harris Interactive, 2007). There is an emotional, psychological and academic cost to this. Children who enter school having had less exposure to eye contact and more exposure to iContact are at a distinct disadvantage as they struggle to maintain conversations, follow instructions, use language effectively to express their thoughts and feelings or use language to build relationships. At Words First, we see the impact of this in our assessments in primary and secondary schools in London.

However, we’re all guilty of it, I’ll be the first to admit that the words “just let me finish this email then I’ll come play with you” are spoken too often in our house. Even as I’m writing this, the kids are circling. It’s difficult juggling a job, children, a house, a social life and still managing to have human contact – especially when so much of that is housed in an iPad or phone! Nevertheless, I am fully aware of the importance of human communication in our children’s development. I believe whole-heartedly that the less technology in the house the better – children get enough exposure to technology now in school so our focus at home needs to remain on EYE contact not iContact.

I am really proud of the fact that we have resisted the temptation to introduce technology into Words First – we’re proudly iPad and App free! We focus on everything to do with human communication as we believe that this is STILL the most important skill for our children to master.

So, in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, how can we keep focused on eye contact and not let iContact take over? For me, the first thing to do is acknowledge that children LOVE anything to do with iPads, laptops and the telly and then to acknowledge that we’re all busy parents and these devices CAN be very useful to entertain kids at key points in the day. Most importantly, however, you need to be in control of when they access these devices, what they are exposed to and for how long.

1. Make meal times tech-free

Children can earn time on their devices after meeting the expectations set by their parents. So, as a reward for good behaviour, tidying her room or getting through a whole day without sticking her tongue out at her sister! Make sure to limit the time and monitor what they watching / playing.

3. (The hardest one) Be a role model for tech usage

Ok, so this one is hard! We want our children to get outdoors and PLAY more than they stay indoors and ‘PLAY’ (on iPads) so we have to show them that we too, love the outdoors and playing. So, mums and dads, that means detaching ourselves from our phones and getting on the trampoline, walking the dogs or building a fort (without constantly checking our phones).

4. Play dates and fun with friends

Sometimes children are drawn to devices because they don’t have anything else to do. Depending on the age of your child, arrange play dates for them with their friends. Keep them busy and entertained in human contact so that they don’t even think about phones or iPads. Also, make sure you facilitate creative thinking so that your child doesn’t feel ‘bored’. As soon as the words ‘I’ve got nothing to do’ come out their mouths, stop what you’re doing and bring out something interesting. Even better, ask them what they COULD do instead of complaining about boredom.

Words First Ltd is PROUDLY App and iPad free and we will continue to push for EYE contact over iContact! Would love to hear your thoughts Amanda@wordsfirst.uk

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