Zone’In Moving to Learn Recommendations

Cris Rowan, pediatric occupation therapist, author of Virtual Child – The terrifying truth about what technology is doing to children”, and founder of Zone’in Consulting, offers programs and materials designed to support parents in engaging children in activities that broaden their physical exploration and offer alternatives to technology-based activities. In a January 25 blog post on titled “Child Mental Illness – Have we individualized what is really a systemic problem?” Cris expresses her concern that, “While imagination and creativity stem from times of absence, children today are incessantly handed technology as a form of entertainment with dubious learning. These devices not only isolate very young children from their pack, causing attachment disorders, but also provide them with a hyper stream of fast paced and violent stimulation which is often mindless and meaningless. When these individual children exhibit behaviors I’ve come to term sad, mad and bad, the aforementioned systems diagnose these behaviors as child mental illness and medicate them.

Based on recent work in small communities, leading to the formation of “tripartite teams comprised of members from various health, education, and social government systems coming together to determine a variety of possible system changes and interventions that would address problematic child behavior” has led to the creation of unified intervention plans “targeted toward initiatives that would enhance child development and learning, as opposed to targeting technology reduction.”

Cris recommends an “8 System Initiative to Enhance Child Development and Learning” that she believes will serve as “bench mark ideas and goals for child health, education, and family teams to work towards” as they negotiate existing and future technology overuse issues:

  1. “Technology Usage Screening – to be employed on a routine basis by therapists, physicians, school/daycare/preschool teachers, social workers, counsellors etc.
  2. Media Awareness Programs – yearly Tech Unplug Week consisting of education, tech reduction strategies, and engagement in community programs which promote healthy activities.
  3. Playground Enhancement – establish play space and equipment in daycares/preschools, schools and community settings to include 7-18 year olds and parents, which challenge physical, mental, and social aspects. …..
  4. Outdoor After-School Care and Summer Programs – run by youth, supervised by health, education, and social service workers.
  5. Teach Printing – while children continue to use pencil/paper for spelling, math, short answer socials, science etc, teachers have stopped teaching children to print as evidenced by 4-5 year delays in printing output speeds. Literacy rates are declining (PISA scores 2013). ….
  6. Provide Space and Equipment for Self-Regulation – use of sensorimotor tools and techniques in classrooms and gyms that stimulate tactile (Body Sock, weighted bean bags), proprioceptive (slam ball, TRX, rings, exercise bike), and vestibular systems (Hokki Chair, Move-N-Sit cushions, suspended swings), improve self-regulation, as do provision of sensory deprivation areas. ….
  7. Parent CoachingTen Steps Triple P – Positive Parenting Program includes 10 one minute video clips, and Strongest Families is an online family support for problematic child behavior.
  8. Technology Reduction – after implementation of all of above, maybe we can get down to the not so favored task of implementing technology reduction initiatives. While obvious, child and family technology addiction is not recognized in North America, and consequently, treatment centres are scarce. Viewing technology addiction centres for children and youth in China, South Korea, and Portugal might assist NA in planning for the future. Restriction of online pornography (England, Scotland, Iceland), and turning off the internet at night (Portugal), are likely to be our future as well.