The normalization of technology has rendered some children incapable of drawing a simple picture, and the number keeps rising daily, according to a Turkish child development specialist.
The new school year in Turkey will begin with remote classes Aug. 31. Aysenur Bekaroglu believes screen addiction in children is much more pronounced when learning is primarily dictated by a device.
"But this is the best of a bad lot,” she said. “Rather than children being left uneducated, online education is the best option.”
Bekaroglu said schools are not only a center for education but a place to socialize, where children have peer gatherings to support each other's development, and the coronavirus pandemic created a huge disadvantage for children at a time when they need to socialize and develop instead of sitting in front of screens.
She said screen addiction has been a major problem for parents for years and the situation is not getting any better. Neurons transmission suffer in children after spending time in front of phones and tablets, she said.
"When we ask children who usually spend their time playing with devices to draw a picture with a simple pencil and a paper, they draw stick figures but the figures are drawn by children who are younger than the age of three,” she said. "After the age of three, children can draw human figures, which means the child's schema development is healthy, but if an 8-year-old who is exposed to screens still draws stick figures, we see the child's schema development the same as a 3-year-old.”
Bekaroglu stressed it was not the drawing skill or child’s talent, but schematically, a child has a perceptual development and every age group has an indication of it.
She noted remote learning also has an advantage for parents because it allows them an opportunity to observe a child's behavior and whether the child is capable of keeping up with their lessons.
How addiction to screens appear
Bekaroglu said “addiction” in children emerges by the age of 4, when the parents and child cannot establish quality communication and interaction. Sometimes the child cannot achieve a secure attachment, she said.
"As the attachment gets harder to obtain, the sense of addiction start to develop. So children who were unable to establish healthy relations with parents at age 0-4 are more prone to addictions,” she said. "This addiction does not necessarily have to be to screens, it could be to humans, food and other thing later in the person’s life.”
Bekaroglu said addiction is much harder to deal with after adolescence years and easier to have an intervention during childhood.
She stressed that before the age of 6, children should not be exposed to screens because later in childhood there would be other problems, noting children can learn a lot from phones, tablets and computers, but they lose a lot of neurons while taking in information from those platforms.
"The more the child gains neurons, their capacity will be larger and as they grow up they will be more creative.
"A 30-year-old person watching a screen for three to four hours, and an average child younger than 12, being exposed to the screen for three to four hours, will not have the same effect,” she said. “While the adult can tolerate the time, the child has difficulty even with one hour because a child has rapid development.”
Bekaroglu noted she is aware of the difficulties of keeping a child from technology in the era of technology but emphasized that children should be taught boundaries.