Sunday, 10 May 2015

Chatting about screen use on WeSpeechies

This week I am the lighthouse keeper on @WeSpeechies, a twitter handle for those interested in issues to do with the speech and language profession.  WeSpeechies is focussing on a topic I have been interested for some time - the debate around children's use of screen based technology and child health, wellbeing and development.  It's a topic that arouses much opinion so I think it will be keeping me busy!

To find out more about WeSpeechies you can read about them here.  To find out specifically about this week look here.  For this page I have written a background to the week with editing support from WeSpeechies founders Caroline Bowen @speech_woman and Bronwyn Hemsley @BronwynHemsley.  For ease I have copied it below.  Just 2 hours after taking over as lighthouse keeper the debate around this issue is well underway, and I'll update this blog with a summary of issues raised throughout the week.  There'll also be a twitter chat on this issue on Tuesday 12th May from 8.00-9.00pm Brtish Summer Time.  Tune in and get involved!

Topic: Screen time and child development: Exploring the impact of audiovisual and interactive screens from all angles

There is no doubt that we live in a time of rapid technological advances. Travelling on a London Underground train recently, I estimated that around 70% of passengers were using smartphones. The screen has exploded out of cinemas and living room TVs and into people’s back pockets. In addition, small screen based technology has provided a platform for many other uses, including, but not limited to social networking, audio-visual communication (such as Skype and Facetime), education and gaming.
The widespread adoption of the small screen is said to be changing behaviours (Ley, et al., 2014) and questions have been raised about the effects of screen time on child development (Ebbeck, et al., 2015). This is no new phenomenon; indeed the effect of the television on children’s development was questioned by Meerloo, back in 1956. Concern was raised in 2005 when a UK survey reported 20% of young children had a television in their bedrooms. Nowadays, many children have regular access to up to five screen based devices in their own homes (Kesten, et al., 2015).
Over the years screen use has been reported to be associated with both a range of positive and negative developmental outcomes. Across the research to date, the variety of aspects examined obviously makes it impossible to generalise findings from different studies to all screens, all media and all user behaviour.  None-the-less, certain trends emerge.
There are of course advantages associated with the availability and use of screen technology for communication, learning, and social connectedness. Applications have been developed to support child development, and social media platforms may facilitate networking for children with their peers, families, and many other people. By contrast, there are potential risks to children’s privacy, safety and mental health that may result from unsupervised use of Internet based apps on the small screen (Broughton, 2005).
As speech-language professionals, we face many decisions about how much to recommend or use ‘screens’ in our work with children and families. We must take account of all of the evidence, not only the representations made in the mainstream media. On @WeSpeechies this week, I will challenge all taking part in discussions, and reading along, to consider the role of speech-language professionals in providing reliable advice to parents on screen use and how we might adopt screen use in our own clinical practice.
BROUGHTON, D. D. 2005. Keeping kids safe in cyberspace: Pediatricians should talk to patients, parents about Internet dangers. AAP News, 26, 11-12.
EBBECK, M., YIM, H. Y. B., CHAN, Y. & GOH, M. 2015. Singaporean parents’ views of their young children’s access and use of technological devices. Early Childhood Education Journal. ABSTRACT
KESTEN, J. M., SEBIRE, S. J., TURNER, K. M., STEWART-BROWN, S., BENTLEY, G. & JAGO, R. 2015. Associations between rule-based parenting practices and child screen viewing: A cross-sectional study. Preventive Medicine Reports, 2, 84-89.
LEY, B., OGONOWSKI, C., HESS, J., REICHLING, T., WAN, L. & WULF, V. 2014. Impacts of new technologies on media usage and social behaviour in domestic environments. Behaviour & Information Technology, 33, 815-828. ABSTRACT
MEERLOO, J. A. M. 1956. Technology invades our minds. The rape of the mind: The psychology of thought control, menticide, and brainwashing. Cleveland, OH, US: The World Publishing Company.

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