In our modern world of gadgets and tech, it can be hard for parents to assess and keep up to date with the innovations and how they may relate with their child’s development. Whilst something may entertain and the children enjoy the games, toys, or tech – is it suitable for their brains, bodies and development?
Designers of children’s furniture, are not often developmental physiologists.
Designers of iPad, phones and gaming apps, are not often developmental psychologists.
Manufacturers of toys and games often have other things in mind than optimizing learning and development.
Because of this disparity between what is made and created, and what is best for the biological and psychological progress of our children, we see products on the market, that ultimately are harmful for a variety of reasons. Of course, they are not intended to harm, but development is a complex process, that is still being discovered. For millions of years of evolution, our development process was forged through various interweaving natural processes, without interruption from large amount of external tech. Yet we have accelerated into a consumer age, where the market is flooded with products, that may have been screened for simple common sense things, like choking hazards, and obvious toxicity – but have they been assessed for their capabilities to infer proper development of the muscular and skeletal system ? What about for posture? How about for the wiring of our addiction and reward centers in the brain? Or our capacity for attention span? The building of imagination? Many aspects of development can be left at the gate when we innovate beyond our understanding. Here a few examples of where industry has gone wrong.
Baby bouncers and jolly jumpers may seem like a fun , and cute thing for babies to play in. After all the are bouncing and laughing and smiling, it must be fun right? Actually a child has not properly developed the ligamental support needed to position themselves in an upright position, and the bouncing can put great stress on the joints. The results of excessive upright bouncing is poor posture, and pain which can carry on all throughout life. During the phases of infant development, from fetus through to crawling, and into walking, no phase should be skipped. Bouncers and baby walkers, allow the child to walk before it can crawl , so to speak. The time spent on the belly, cross crawling, is vital for the development of the core, the brain, and the neuro-muscular connection that will be established throughout life. As you can imagine , all of that time crawling, allows the strength and brain connection for the child to slowly learn how to stand, and eventually walk. Parents sometimes encourage their children to walk early , thinking it is a sign of progress, but in so doing – skip crucial development phases, and neuro-muscular training. The perception that because a child walked by 9 months, that he is more advanced is a major problem for the poor motor development of children, and adults today. Prior to standing, there are many crucial aspects of human movement that are being developed through crawling and floor time.
1 – Stabilisation of the diaphragm
2- Ability to twist and roll
3 – Lifting of the head
4 – stabilising of the back muscles between neck , chest and pelvis
5 – Cross patterning of movements between shoulders and hips
By placing a child in a bouncer or a walker , the movement challenges are placed on developing gait, and not crawling, so inherently all of the muscular development in the above list is halted for an accelerated push into gait.
Children who have spent a lot of time in bouncers or on walkers, may develop tight calves, or even walk on tip toes. This pattern places great pressure on the postural muscles, and leads to muscular-skeletal imbalances, which often result in pain, tightness, and poor posture.
Allowing your child to crawl and move around on the floor, for as long as they need to , is the best way to help them develop a strong neuro-muscular profile, which will help them throughout life in many ways.
Flip flop sandals are another modern convenience, which are seemingly innocent and innocuous footwear items. Yet ultimately, they are not designed with the human physiology in mind. In fact, not many footwear items are made with human physiology in mind! This might seem like a outrageous statement – but just take a look at the fashionable shoes of the day, including high heels and flip flop sandals. Convenience and sexiness, but not practical or physiologically designed.
When we wear flip flops, the toes contract to grab on to the shoe. As the toes contract, the pushing off the big toe, is hindered or stopped, which is an important part of a stable gait pattern. The calf muscles end up working overtime and the shin muscles do not activate properly. To compensate the back muscles, kick in to help to lift the legs, as opposed to the core doing the work. Also, the hip integration of the lifting of the leg and rotation of the hips goes out of balance, and people will end up dragging their legs, more than lifting them. As you can see, it only takes one small thing to go astray in a natural movement pattern, for the whole functional pattern to come under stress.
The shape of the foot is widest at the toes. Yet our modern footwear is almost always narrowest at the toes! This forces the toes to squeeze together, switching off stabilizing muscles in the foot, and creating instability, fallen arches, and bunions later in life. High heels are literally designed to increase the apparent size, and angle of the butt, and lengthen the legs. Yet for every inch of heel , there is more and more pressure accumulating on the postural muscles of the back, which is a long term disaster for posture and pain. Is the sexiness and convenience really worth it?
Here is a short list of things that are done as somewhat acceptable practices for raising infants and children that con prove to be harmful to development, posture and pain later in life:
– Picking up a child by the arms instead of the armpits – this can destabilise the shoulder and create winging scapular.
– Swinging a child by the arms around and around – can displace the shoulder joints, also creating winging.
– Baby chairs and bucket chairs – switch off the core musculature, and develop poor posture and muscular connection
– Baby cars, and toy cars – excess time spent in these baby walking devices and cars, gets the children to skip normal locomotion phases, crucial to developing the body for life.
– Swaddling and binding can reduce the amount of time in natural ambulation and working of the bodies musculature. Children will move in the night, and this ambulation process is part of developing the brain-body connection and core musculature.
– Small cribs do not allow for proper movement dynamics.
– using Ipads, and Iphones as a child have a range of issues connected to them , including poor eyesight, poor posture, and faulty programming of the imagination, and addiction centers of the brain.
In my book “connecting children to nature” I go into more detail as to how technology and the devices we use can impact learning and development. There are ways to mitigate the risk, and make the practices of using technology less harmful. Using screen holders, in ergonomic positions and blue light filters are both ways to reduce harm to posture and to eyesight. Yet good old fashioned restrictions, time restrictions and age restrictions, are some of the best ways to reduce harm, and provide context for these technologies to our children. Statistically children under 5 show increased anxiety and depression , when exposed to more than 1 hour of screen time per day. Even though the WHO organisation recommends no more than 1 hour screen time for children under 5 , and zero amount of screen time for those under 2, this advice is frequently ignored. It is easy to use technology to babysit, or take the edge of parenting, but it is not healthy.
After all, we want the technologies of the modern age to work for us, and not against us. By becoming aware of the pitfalls we can move to create technology and demand for technology that supports our physiology and human existence.
Here are some ideas for reducing harm with the way we use technology.
– Minimalist footwear
– Blue light filters
– Radiation protectors
– Screen holders
– Standing desks
I hope this article has inspired you to assess the ways in which you use technology not just for your children but for yourself. We lead by example and are also one of the biggest trainers for our children’s posture! We mimic behavior by nature, so by improving our own health, habits, and interactions with technology, our actions will speak volumes to those around us, especially our young ones!
Stay healthy and aware!
Book in a free nature discovery session with Asher to discover how you may protect yourself and your family from the pitfalls of our modern technologies, and connect back to our nature!
In Health and Good Will!