Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Audio-Visual Stimulant Pitfall to better Executive Function/ SocialSkill

Can  audio-visual media stimulation lead to severe negative growth in executive function skills? How about sensory skills, paraverbal skills, emotional intelligence?

How does it become an 'escape' for kids who feel socially out-of-place? In this post, I want to explore the relevance of a growing amount of studies showing that television, Ipad, media time for kids six and under is immediately addictive for the child, and robs them of immediate social creativity. Likewise, the complete loss of all opportunities to develop emotional intelligence, paraverbal skill refinement, and all your executive function skills are turned off once you turn on the media in a immediate way.

Study after study has shown that the first five to six years of a child's life are foundational to their neurological development. So the worst thing that you could do to your child is give them an Ipad to watch videos, and have access to 10 Ipad games that can be running all at once. The child learns to focus and sustain attention in intermittent ways. With access to so many audio-visual stimulants the child soon starts 'surfing' through various app games spending intermittent time on each game.. till the buzz wears off. Then they buzz to the next game/ video. For a young child, say maybe a 2 year old girl, unrestricted use of Ipad time, but with access to parent-approved safe audio-visual content still turns off their social-emotional learning skill switch.

Parents are advised to consider a lifestyle switch that eliminates television viewing during child waking hours. That is a tough call, I know.  But the science is in regarding how crucial those first five to six years are. The brain is physically wiring up. It is in a state of growth, not pruning yet. Children are learning how to behave socially and who they are, what this family is, etc. Sticking a tablet computer in front of a child six and under, or turning on the TV/DVD with the intent that they leave you alone for 1:43 while they watch a feature length kids film is detrimental, and immediately the kids zone out with the audio-visual spectacular buzz show. Try talking to them. You can't. They won't even look at you, even if you gently push them 2-4 times. Look at their mouths. Are they half open? Their frontal lobe is completely shut off at this point. They are receiving audio-visual content that is stimulating them on a hormonal level. This is addicting.

Later on in life, it is not enough to just watch PBS for Kids Cat in the Hat. If the unrestricted access to media persists, kids eventually acclimate to fighting games, like Call of Duty, and Medal of Honor, or more grotesque, like the Grand Theft Auto video game saga. In this last game, the social-emotional impairment takes on a whole new meaning. While playing this game, in the course of one virtual reality minute, your child can make a video fame character kill an elderly person, steal their money after killing them, then hijack a car, kill the original person in the car, drive away in the car, turn on a reggae station with some catchy beats, pull over next to a woman who is prostituting herself, have sex with her in the hijacked car (car goes up and down while the fornication happens), then afterwards you can kill the woman, take her money, and drive away with some more music from the cars radio, maybe some opera music this time.

Violent video gaming teaches kids how to kill and then feel alright about it. It is a desensitizer that unhinges the ability of the person to exercise effective use of a variety of executive function skills, such as behavior modulation, impulse control, emotional control, and the ability to self-monitor, to name a few. I can't imagine a nation that allows for this kind of garbage to last long. At the least, parents can become more aware about helping their kids get the best chance at developing their executive function skills, their social-emotional skills, sensory, and paraverbal skills. You'd be amaze how everyone in the house changes their lifestyle when the edict that the television will be retired/ semi-retired in the household is enforced (take the cables away).

 Some, usually the youngest can shift immediately, others who may be older, may need more time to adjust. This is shifting and adjusting is actually an executive function skill called mental flexibility. This underlines the need to 'go all out' with your kids and your family to curtail the value and importance of television/ audio-visual stimulation via media devices. Being present for conversation, playing with dolls, playing a sport, building things, making meals together, having parties together, reading together, dancing together, laughing together, doing horseplay (Dad's should do this everyday to develop emotional intelligence in their kids), playing chess with your two year old, being outside in nature, spending focused time together.... all these are just examples of what parents should use as alternatives to audio-visual media.

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