Transcript: The Impacts Of Technology On Infant Development

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called The Impacts Of Technology On Infant Development and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Helen Thompson: Over the many years I’ve worked as a childcare educator, I’ve seen a lot of change in how we do things and in the family unit. Being of an age where I knew life before the likes of mobile phones, computers, and other devices, I’m often concerned with how they are used in this modern fast-paced world of ours.

Increasingly, I’m seeing a generation of children who expect to be entertained and who are clearly lacking creative imagination. This is of course hardly surprising, when so many are raised from their beginnings, knowing little more than instant gratification and a dopamine hit from pressing a button or viewing content.

I was so thrilled this week to speak with Melissa Lowry, who has worked in the education space over many years, working with students, teachers, administrators and parents. She currently serves as the principal of Christ The King school, a kindergarten through eighth grade school in Atlanta. You’ll hear Melissa and I chat about the impacts of technology on infant development and there’s some great tips and insights shared from Melissa’s wealth of knowledge and experience. You’ll hear Melissa talk about the importance of keeping young children off technology and media for their first 24 months, why it’s better for sensory awareness and development to avoid using earphones, which block out all sounds around them, why when exposing them to media, it is crucial to ensure that it is only active (also known as slow media), where there’s an expectation of engagement

And so much more…

Hi Melissa and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here and I think it’s going to be an exciting podcast for first time moms.

Melissa Lowry: Fantastic, well thank you so much for having me. It’s such an honor and a privilege to be here and for your listeners, I am joining you from Atlanta, Georgia in the United States of America, which is in the Southeast and I’m very excited to be here.

Yes, I have a background in education. I’m currently the principal of a kindergarten through eighth grade school, but I have taught everything from early childhoods, threes, fours, and fives up, through eighth grade, which in the United States is around age 14. So it’s the year before they go into an upper school or a high school.

And I’ve done everything from being a teaching assistant, to an author to a curriculum director and a principal lecturing in college. My passion is education and helping parents and caregivers help their children to be successful in school and in life.

Helen Thompson: That’s fantastic and thank you for being here. So technology, we were going to talk about exposure to technology. I believe in technology to some extent. I think technology for parents is great. However, I also think it has disadvantages as well.

Melissa Lowry: I would agree with you wholeheartedly that technology can be a phenomenal resource and a way for not only people to connect, but for people to find content information or connect to people across the globe, just like you and I are connecting right now. At the same time. it can have a little bit of a sinister side to it as well, and have a negative impact from, everything from some sort of negative, if you want to go there, with pornography that’s available on the internet, to let’s say fake news, right. So anyone can put anything on the internet.

And sometimes I think that parents are under the false assumption that because their children are in their house, they’re safe, when the internet is something that is difficult and complicated to navigate. And so it can end up being a negative as well. It’s got two sides.

Helen Thompson: But it can also be a negative in that kids are on it 24/7. They just can’t get off it and they’re constantly looking down at their phones and their social skills and the language skills, the kids today just don’t have that because they don’t have that ability to interact like we are now. They don’t know the facial expressions, they don’t know how to communicate.

Melissa Lowry: Absolutely and this is something that could take far more than a podcast, and it’s a very sort of complicated relationship that people can have with technology. I think it’s important to note that human beings in general are very social and we want to connect with other people, whether that is through physical touch, whether that is through our emotional support and interpersonal communication, we want to be together.

And I think if anything has taught us that we need other people, that has been the pandemic, from the sense that people who even thought they might want to be isolated, natural introverts, and things of that nature, still find themselves gravitating toward people in some way, shape or form. And so we naturally are social animals as human beings.

And so we want to have that connection and eye contact and facial expressions and non-verbal communications, that’s really the first and foremost way that we connect with other human beings and I’ve taken some classes on how to be effective in the classroom and it’s interesting to note that about 84% of our communication is non verbal and I was surprised to find the statistics that high and basically everything outside of the words that come out of our mouths is considered nonverbal. So everything from a facial expression to our cadence, to how high, like the tone of our voice, all of those things together make up non-verbal communication.

And then there’s the body language and everything else that goes with it. And when we are so engrossed in our technology and we’re not looking around at the world around us, we’re missing out on, especially children, the development of those important social cues from around us. And I think that something that you and I had touched on was many of your listeners have children that are either newborn, all the way up through those beginning stages.

And so when we look at integrating technology, something that I’ve seen both as a parent and as an educator, that’s disturbing is parents passing off the technology to very, very young children who really aren’t ready. And here in the United States, you would really look to the American Academy of Pediatrics who sets the gold standard for media use here in the United States.

And really, truly what they’re saying is that children aged zero to two should never watch media i.e. television or videos and, or engage with technology, at any time when they are alone. So when you’re handing your child let’s say an iPhone with headphones in a restaurant or in a vehicle and that child is zero to 24 months, the recommendation of the AAP is that should not be happening at all. And that once children reach about two years of age, then there should be a co-viewing. So the parent is actually viewing the television program or the video and, or the technology with the child, so that there is an interaction that takes place while they’re engaging in that technology and media.

So it’s important for, I think, new parents to really understand the importance of keeping their very, very, very young children off of technology and media for that first 24 months.

Helen Thompson: I agree with that. I remember my father bought a book for two kids. They were twins and he’d spent a lot of time in choosing this particular book for these kids so they could look at it and the first thing they did when they got the book was swipe their hands across because they thought it was like a sort of computer book that they just swiped their hands across.

And there were only one and a half, maybe two. And that really, really hit home for me. The twins both did, it wasn’t just one of them and that really surprised me and wow, that’s exactly what we’re talking about. We allow our children to be involved with technology too much at a young age and I think there are so many other things that we can do to engage our children.

Melissa Lowry: I would agree with you 110% on everything you just said, that earlier the adoption of technology, the earlier that a child will get used to that said technology and then want to engage other forms of entertainment or education in that same way.

But before we kind of pile on parents and say, oh, don’t do this, don’t do that. No judgment, because sometimes as a parent, there are things that you’re going to do once or twice that you wouldn’t do in another situation and there are probably some young parents saying, well, wait a second, I’m getting mixed messages because I’m seeing and hearing all of these different messages about videos that are available or different games or educational opportunities that are apps let’s say on my iPhone or that are available on a computer. Why would someone want me to engage my child in those, if they weren’t good for that? And so I think that there are mixed messages that are being sent to parents. And so I think that what parents need to understand is that when children come into the world, they don’t come in understanding what technology is.

We may call this generation digital natives, which means they are growing up with the full integration of technology in their lives, but they don’t come out of the womb saying, where’s my iPhone? That’s a learned behavior that we model as the adults in their lives. And so when you go back to books, for instance, a young child, anywhere from the time that they can sort of sit up, so that’s six to eight months and they can start to actually hold things or look at things in their lap, which is going to happen anywhere six months and above. Probably not right at six months, but let’s say nine months and above.

Whether you hand that child a Goodnight Moon or a cute little book like that, or you hand that child an iPhone, it is going to have the same results as far as entertainment. And so I think that it’s important for parents to say to themselves, I am going to work as hard as I can to keep that technology out of my child’s hand and to hand them a book. And even if a child can’t read the words or it’s just a picture book, it helps them with their creative mind and we all have an imagination and we want to nurture and grow our children’s imaginations, that they come up with ideas on their own.

And if they are looking at a picture book, or even a book that has words, they’re going to start to create the story in their mind and they’re going to pull information and knowledge, especially pre-literacy knowledge from looking at those books. And so that’s something that you can give a young child in lieu of an iPhone or an iPad especially with the earphones where they’re not hearing anything else around them. It’s super important that young children are taking in through all of their senses, everything that’s happening in their environment. And so for those new parents who are being tempted to just hand the phone, what I would say is there are a lot of other developmental toys that are available for children that are nine months to about two years old that have a far better long-term positive result on your child’s development than handing your child a phone or an iPad.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I’ve seen parents in restaurants and cafes going out to dinner or they’re with friends or whatever, and they’ve got a couple of kids and they just give the kids an iPhone or a computer game or whatever and they’re not engaging with that child. Now, they might just want some time out and that’s perfectly fine, I’m not criticizing them for that. I would rather stock them up with a couple of books and games that they can play and interact with, rather than immediately giving them an iPad.

Melissa Lowry: And so they’re growing up immersed in technology the way that you and I weren’t, I mean, I’m going to turn 50 in July. So I think when you and I were chatting earlier, the internet I think went mainstream, right when I got out of college in 1994, I got my first cell phone in about 1995.

So I was in my early twenties, which doesn’t make me a digital native, but today’s children they’re growing up again, coming out of the womb and being exposed to iPhones and different things of that nature. And I think any parent will attest this. When my children were very young, they were almost three years apart and I had to travel with them.

We did five cross-country moves in the first six years and I would have to travel quite often with two very young children and sometimes all bets are off. I mean, my daughter sat and watched a video for several hours on a plane. And so there’s always going to be that time in your life when everything goes out the window and it’s like ice cream or whatever the treat is.

If you eat ice cream every night for dinner, I think that everybody would say that’s probably not the best idea, but if you have ice cream once a week, or you have ice cream for a special treat, then it’s absolutely wonderful. And I think that if we start looking at technology as that sort of special treat, especially when we have really young children.

Yes, everyone should get a special treat every once in awhile. And every once in a while as a parent, you’re like, yeah, I just, I need a break. So if you have a little extra ice cream, not a problem with that. And it would be the same with the technology. But I would say when the children are in that very young stage of zero to about 24 months, really, really, really try and keep them away.

And if you’re going to expose them to any media, what I would say is to expose them to videos like Blue’s Clues here in the United States, Baby Einstein, things like that. And there’s actually two types of media. There’s active media and there’s passive media. So active media is where there’s actually an engagement going on in that media and sometimes they’ll refer to it as slow television. So I don’t know, in Australia, if you have a program like Sesame Street or Blue’s Clues, where oftentimes the main character in that video is actually sort of conversing with the audience, if that makes sense. And then there’ll be like those pauses almost where they’re expecting the audience to respond to them.

So that is a form of early active media, where the children are actually actively engaging. They don’t realize that in the video, the person’s not actually talking to them, but it’s expecting a result from them. And that actually is a very positive form of media. And so that’s what we would call slow media, but it’s also active media.

Then passive media is where the child is only a consumer of that media and often we see that as like fast media. And so, a very old example would be like Bugs Bunny and The Road Runner. When it’s really, really, really young children and they’re watching a very fast pace, even if it’s a cartoon and there’s no expectation of engagement, that’s passive media.

That’s what we want for really young children, for them to stay away from. We want them, if they’re going to be engaging with media, maybe to be active. So what I would say to parents is, yeah, if you need a break and you’re going out to dinner and you’re like, I need something. I would always recommend a video screen and you can do the headphones, that’s fine. And what I would say is you would choose videos that are developmentally appropriate for young children that are active media, and that are slow television that are not going at a really rapid pace because there is a body of research that does support the negative impact of passive media that’s very fast paced on very young children.

Helen Thompson: I know there’s a lot of educational programs out there that are actually very good for kids. I don’t know what it’s called, but there’s one about maths where you have five cherries or something in one side and six cherries in the other and it says how much does that make? So you’re encouraging the child to learn that way. So that would be an active rather than a passive.

Melissa Lowry: Yes and especially if they were putting on the screen, I’ve got three cherries and then I add two cherries, what does that make? There’s an expectation that the child is actually going to be like five cherries or whatever it is and even though, again, it’s a video, the expectation of the child to engage with that video makes it active media. So, I would say Sesame street is an example, Blue’s Clues, things like Backyardigans or Baby Einstein, all of those are running at a pace and then having stops and starts where there’s almost an expectation that the child engage with that media. And that would be something that I would suggest for young children, if mom and dad are at the restaurant and they’re looking for some sort of break. But when you hand a child a phone that just has a passive program where they’re just watching and watching and watching, it’s the same effect that Netflix has.

I love Netflix, but there’s a reason why Netflix doesn’t have a break in between episodes and they just show you that little line at the bottom that says next episode, and you click it. It’s because when the mind engages in, and I want to say it’s 14 minutes, but I wouldn’t quote me on that. But once the mind has engaged in that media for a certain amount of time, we become almost hypnotized by it. And so that’s why you can watch something like a Netflix and people call it binge watching, where all of a sudden you’ve sat down to watch one episode of something and eight episodes later you’re like, where did all that time go? You almost become mesmerized. Well, it’s a very passive act at that point. They’re not expecting you to engage and children will fall into that same pattern when they’re handed a piece of technology that’s not expecting anything from them in return. And so that’s just something that, again, with that birth to 24 months, that again, even the American Academy of Pediatrics says, just keep them away as much as possible.

So they say zero media. I don’t know that that is realistic for most parents in today’s society. At some point a new mom needs to take a shower. And so she’s going to stick the child in front of the television. My recommendation again is active, cartoons or TV shows and that ones that are very slow paced, because we might think that they are very slow paced, but to a very young child whose mind is not developed at all, that is not a slow pace.

Helen Thompson: As you say, mums have got to have a break and they’ve got to do things, but yeah, I guess as you say, we’re from a generation where technology wasn’t there. And I remember my parents used to encourage us to go out and play or go out and do something or, or go get a book while mum had a shower or she needed something.

I guess as you say, my generation and your generation, we just didn’t have the technology. And I think for us we’ve got to accept also that technology is there and how can we embrace it? And how can we support first time mums as you’ve just discussed.

Melissa Lowry: And I think it’s hard because when you’re in the midst of it and you’re in the weeds and you got a newborn who’s not sleeping at night and maybe you have a toddler that’s older or whatever. I mean, sometimes you think you’re kind of never going to get out of that stage. And you’re like, when am I actually gonna get a break? And so what’s happening is those parents and if I hadn’t been in the field of education, I wouldn’t have been doing this either. They’re not thinking about what the impact of their choices today on their children, 5, 10, 15 years from now. And what’s interesting in many, many parents are concerned about the impact let’s say of nutrition. So I know many parents who are like, I didn’t give my child their first taste of sugar until they were 12 months old, because I wanted to make sure that they waited for that. Well, technology is similar in that way, but what I would say to those parents is if you want to know what the outcome is let’s say, or what’s going to happen later on is.

What we’re seeing in school today is that our children or our students come to school kind of expecting to be entertained because from a very young age, they have been put in front of a screen where they have had instant gratification and that instant gratification of pressing a button or just being fed information gives people, a dopamine hit and dopamine is a natural chemical produced in the brain that makes us feel good. Just like endorphins do, if you get a runner’s high or things of that nature. And so what’s happening is we’re seeing young children with early exposure to technology expecting to be entertained.

And then they show up at school and they don’t know how to entertain themselves. They haven’t been fostering their own creative imagination and so that’s something when parents are like, well, why should I listen to this advice or why should I think about this? I think it’s the potential long-term sort of positives and negatives that can come of it.

And so what I would also say to parents of young kids is one of the best things I ever did is you get those play mats and they have what it looks like almost a dome and it has lots of little colorful things hanging off of it. And it’s training your children to be alone on that. And so it may start with two or three minutes that a baby is on his or her back kind of hitting those.

And they can start to bat at those types of things right around three months. We were talking about how far children can see, and they can see a full 12 to 18 inches away to lie underneath one of those. And sometimes they have noises and sounds and different things. But having your child lie on one of those mats and then working your way up from a few minutes to your child being able to entertain him or herself at even 6, 8, 9 months old, especially if they haven’t started to crawl yet.

Actually you can start about three months, I’d say three to six months of allowing them to lie on one of those and bat those things around and sort of entertain themselves because the more that your child becomes comfortable in his or her own skin entertaining his or herself, the more likely they are to be able to sustain attention later on.

And so that would be one of those sort of longterm, oh, okay this makes sense. If I hold back this technology, if I put my child with books and natural things that are going to take up his or her time, they learn to entertain themselves. And that helps to foster that creativity, and imagination so that when the child is ready to go into a preschool environment or something of that nature, they can go in with the sufficient funds of knowledge that they need to navigate that school environment. But again, we’re seeing more and more kids come to school who are just like entertain me and we know that’s not how school works, even in today’s day and age, that children need to be able to come in and sustain attention on their own and use their own imagination and we want to make sure as parents that we’re helping them to do that. And so that would be some of the reasons why you’d want to delay the really early integration of technology.

Helen Thompson: It’s interesting because it’s like the example I gave of the book my father gave those kids. That’s immediately what they did because they didn’t know how to be entertained themselves. And you also mentioned lying on the back. I do baby massage and I also do tummy time and a lot of parents say to me, oh, but my baby doesn’t like having tummy time or my baby doesn’t like this, but if you just give them it gently, just for a few minutes each day, then they’ll get used to being involved.

Melissa Lowry: Well if you think about it, I mean in the long-term effects, so most of us don’t like uncomfortable situations. There are very few people who are like, yes, I can’t wait to get into a brand new, super uncomfortable situation, but you slowly kind of dip your foot in the pool and then keep moving forward. And this is the same thing. So you’re right. A, parent’s going to say my child cries, you know, when I put them on their tummy or they cry when I put them on their back, that’s okay.

They’re uncomfortable and they don’t have language yet. And so the only way for them to express to you that they’re uncomfortable is to fuss and to cry. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s just like trying to get a child to sleep through the night. It’s the same thing. There are going to be fits and starts with that, but it doesn’t mean that in the longterm, that’s not a good decision. And if you think about it, when your children get to school, they’re going to be in uncomfortable situations all the time. The first day they walk into a new classroom, every time they have a new teacher, making new friends.

And so we call that in education scaffolding and scaffolding is when you start with one concept and then you build upon that concept to make it more complicated. And you see it in academics all the time. Like we wouldn’t start in geometry and kindergarten, but you start with patterning in kindergarten, which is a building block to geometry later on.

And so it’s the same with development, you can’t force a child to walk, but you certainly can work with your child to help your child engage in activities that will make him or her strong enough to walk, right. And you would know this with the baby massage that if they’re lying on their tummy, what are they learning to do? Lift their head on their own, move their arms independently. And then when they get on their back. So all of these things are helping them become more independent physically, so they can do things. We also have to help our children become more independent developmentally. And you do that through that scaffolding.

And if we’re cutting off our children by just handing them technology and earphones and kind of cutting them off from the rest of the world, they’re not going to engage in again, experiencing non-verbal communication, verbal communication, and sort of understanding how the world works so that they can scaffold on that. And they can develop interpersonal communication skills and they can learn how to look people in the eye and they can learn how to talk to strangers and all of those things, we don’t think about that with a nine month old. But it’s even that young, that we are beginning to lay the foundation for our children to be able to develop those skills later on.

Helen Thompson: And I think it’s so important to start at a young age to develop those skills because the younger you start, the more likely they are to not always want technology and not always go to that. And as you say, with the baby massage and the tummy time, you are teaching them those skills to lift up their head and to move and to learn to be independent.

Melissa Lowry: Yes, or anybody else for that matter to be able to be comfortable with themselves so that they can read a book or go for a walk or again, not constantly have to have something from the outside entertaining them and filling that space. That they’re able to fill that space on their own with their creative imagination and with their own analytical skills and things of that nature.

I would just say too, that when we talk about media, something that doesn’t usually come up until I think children are a little bit older is gaming. And so I know in the United States gaming has exploded like Nintendo. We don’t have it in my house. My kids can do it when they go somewhere else. We don’t have it just cause I don’t want to argue with them. But gaming can also have that similar effect and so what I would say to parents as their children get a little bit older. First I wouldn’t introduce gaming until probably at least third to fifth grade (8 – 10 years old in the USA) and personally I would stave it off as long as possible, but I also know that for most people that may or may not be a reality that they’re able to do it. If they’re living in a community where you have parents that are gaming and I mean, it’s a huge industry, then there’s going to be earlier adoption of that gaming.

But I would say is you really need to keep the sessions that a young child engages in and I would say a young child would be anyone under 16. That’s what I’m actually categorizing as a young child, as 45 minutes or less a day, because it’s the Netflix effect that we talked about earlier, where the longer they’re on it, the more likely they are to just keep going with it and there have been several studies that have shown that when kids fall into that long-term gaming, where they’re on it for 2, 3, 4 hours, it really does interrupt their brain chemistry and development, and it’s difficult to get them off it. And that’s where we see some of that addictive behavior coming out of it.

So, zero to two, no media, or if there’s going to be media, active, slow media, like a television show or a video. And then I would say from two years old, until eight or nine, you keep them off any form of gaming and make sure that whatever technology they’re engaging in is active and there’s a purpose to that technology, it’s not simply for entertainment and that if children get into gaming later on that it’s monitored by parents because the longer the kids are engaging in that gaming, the more likely they are to be looking for that dopamine hit, that instant gratification, that dopamine hit. And that’s what drives addiction.

And we are seeing serious gaming addiction, not just in the United States, but throughout the world.

Helen Thompson: I work with kids a lot and when they come home from school, it’s so hard for them. They want to diffuse, you give them a bit of time to just say, okay, you can just sit and have your afternoon tea or something in front of the TV but after 20 minutes, it goes off and you can go out and play or I’ll play a game with you or we’ll do homework together or something. I find it incredibly hard sometimes to get them off it, there’s arguments, there’s shouting and I talk to the parents and say, look, what, what do you want to do about this?

Most of the time they say allow them 10 minutes and take it away and if they have a temper tantrum or they scream, let them scream or send them outside, get them on a trampoline or something to sort of diffuse and get rid of that energy and most of the time parents I work with do that. What you say is so important, but it’s easier said than done sometimes.

Melissa Lowry: Yes it is. I mean, everything that I’m saying is easier said than done, and it does take a lot of resolve, but again, I’m hoping that we’re sort of pointing out what some of the long-term positive effects are if you engage in, I call it front-loading. When your children are young, the more you do to set up this routine and the more that you control their exposure to things that you would consider negative, like some forms of media, you are going to see a long-term positive effect of that later on. And I’m hoping that for parents of young children, they think, okay, it might be uncomfortable right now to have these rules or this type of routine, or to be the parent that says, no, we’re not going to have that. But I tell you when your kids get older, there’s a payoff on the other side.

Helen Thompson: Yeah I used to work with a family that was like that. They had a one and a half year old and he wasn’t allowed to have any TV or anything and I really enjoyed working with them because I could take the kid out swimming or go for a walk, or just even play in the garden. He was so engaged in such small little things. He just loved pouring water everywhere because he didn’t have the technology and his imagination was so engaged and it was a joy to work with the family.

He had a set routine, that he did certain things at certain times and people say that routines don’t work. But I think having a routine is so important because it helps to diffuse that technology.

Melissa Lowry: Well, I find that interesting to think that someone would say that a routine doesn’t work, because if you really do look at the research on rituals and routine, they’re extremely, extremely important. And when you look at ways that people naturally control their own anxiety, 99% of the time it’s engaging in ritual or routine that helps to bring that anxiety down.

Now that doesn’t mean something is so regimented that you never move away from it. But having basic routines really actually do help children to feel safer and more cared for, which is why schools have routines and why they are so successful in engaging in those routines because children like order and children like to know where they stand in the world because they don’t have the developmental ability yet, or the global understanding of the world to be able to see the bigger picture. And so it’s very important for them to understand what the parameters are in their lives. And when young children have extremely permissive parents or they’re with guardians that aren’t setting that example, it often leads to higher levels of anxiety for that reason, that they have no idea what the expectation is. They have no idea what, what behavior they’re supposed to engage in. So I would argue that routine and ritual while they shouldn’t be so stringent, that you can never move off of them or do something different, I do think that routine is something that does actually make people feel much more in control of their lives.

Helen Thompson: I think having a routine, especially for younger kids, like having a baby massage routine or having a routine when your baby is going to bed at night. You have that particular routine so that your child, whether it’s a baby or a child, know what that routine is. They have a checklist. I’m just using an example, brush teeth, quiet time, reading a book. You have a list of things you’ve got to do and the child will then go, all right, I brushed my teeth and I’ll go and tick that off and I’ve done that.

Melissa Lowry: And I think that most people would agree with that. I mean, if we woke up every day and we had no idea where we were going, what we were doing, what time we were being picked up, who was picking us up, what the expectation was, all of us would feel discombobulated and children are no different. They’re just younger versions of us that are developmentally less sophisticated, right? And so it’s even more important that young children have the safety of that routine and that ritual.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, if you’re dropping them off at childcare, they have to have that routine to know that their parents are actually going to come and pick them up at the end of the day and they’re not going to be left there because that can bring on anxiety. We’ve been talking about so many things. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Melissa Lowry: No, I mean, I think that there was quite a bit that we covered and it might be overwhelming for some people, for some new moms to think, oh my gosh, if I’ve already shown my child or handed my child an iPhone, I’ve ruined them! No, absolutely not. I would just say that if you’ve already been in a routine, you’d slowly kind of move yourself away from that routine and back toward picture books and slower forms of media.

And I would say the same thing when parents of young children are in the car. It’s really important when you’re driving that your child observe the environment. What’s going on around them because we learn through experience. And if you think about it, every time we engage in something new, we go back into our mind and we try and capture some other experience that we’ve had, that we can apply to this new adventure.

So if you think about it, that birth until about five or six, where the hard wiring in the brain is really coming together, the richer, more authentic experiences that a child has, the broader that child’s fund of knowledge. And so something I used to say is I could teach my students with snow its and I could show them a picture or the next step is they could watch a video of snow and the Antarctic and what’s happening there.

And they would understand what snow is, but then I could go one step further and I could freeze a whole bunch of stuff and have them touch it and say, it’s not really snow, it’s ice, but you get an idea of how cold it is, or I could take them to visit the snow and what is going to be the best, most immersive experience, it’s going to be visiting the snow.

And then they put that in their mental Rolodex and then they use that experience later on. And so the more that parents of young children can immerse them in experiences, whether they’re mundane experiences, everyday experiences, or really cool stuff like going to a zoo or on a vacation. All of those experiences end up in the brain and they’re used as funds of knowledge.

And then children will apply those experiences as they scaffold up and they develop into more mature human beings. And so if your child is stuck on a screen with headphones on during all of these different experiences, where he or she could be living the world, instead of looking at a screen, if you look at it that way, I think that would be the light bulb to say, oh, okay that makes sense to me now. We want to take them out of that artificial technology driven world and put them into the real world so that our children experience the world. And that would be the biggest piece of advice I would give to young moms and dads. Give them the opportunity to really experience the world. You are their best teacher. Don’t be nervous about it. You’re going to be fine. And that technology can be wonderful, but it’s gotta be used like the ice cream just limited and in small doses and as a treat and not until they’re a little bit older.

Helen Thompson: Thank you, that’s great pearls of wisdom, I really appreciate that. So if anybody wanted to contact you, how would they go about doing that?

Melissa Lowry: Yeah, sure. Well, pretty much these days I’m working full time, so I don’t interact with my website as much as I used to, but you can find out more about me. My website is just My email is and I answer my email when I get it. And if anyone wants to check out where I’m principal, the school is and that’s where I work and that’s pretty much it. I’m not really on social media. I’m on Instagram. I don’t engage all that much, but it’s Melissa Lowry, EDU, that would be my Instagram handle. But usually email or checking out my website would be the best way to get a hold of me.

Helen Thompson: Thank you, Melissa. Thank you for your time I’ve really enjoyed having you and it’s been a really, really interesting chat. I’ve learnt a lot by talking to you as well. So thank you for being on the podcast.

Melissa Lowry: Well, it’s been absolutely an honor and a pleasure to be here. I really enjoyed myself. So thank you so much.

Helen Thompson: I hope that what Melissa has shared in this episode has motivated you to rethink your use of technology in your little one’s life. I know it’s often hard making change when you’re often overwhelmed and stressed, but it will benefit your little one enormously and get them on the right track. I’ve included links in the show notes to Melissa’s website, the school where she is principal, as well as her Instagram and LinkedIn pages at

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