Recent research reveals that too much screen time damages the developing brain. Almost daily I meet with precious students who spend much of their lives gaming. I have a sense of urgency, but calmly explain to their parents the implications of too much screen time. Here is real evidence.
According to a recent report on CBS/KEYE News Austin, excessive gaming can halt the development of the part of the brain associated with motivation. It is estimated that by age 21, the average student will spend 10,000 hours with eyes and brain focused on a video device, lost hours which could have been spent learning and practicing reading and social skills needed for real life (such as becoming a good job candidate and for relationships).
Another article claims strong research-based evidence that video games are addictive and have negative effects on the brain and behavior, that “intensive play of high-action games has been shown to have negative cognitive effects”.
Michael M. Merzenich, an expert in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, cites studies that indicate such games can create “listlessness and discontent in slower-paced and less stimulating academic, work or social environments.” Think: school, college lectures.
In his book, The Brain that Changes Itself, Dr. Merzenich explains how intensive activities work in the brain. I learned that while gaming, the student is developing the brain's “real estate” for those gaming skills. Then gradually that growing area of the brain’s neural connections needs more space, so takes over areas that should be developed for more productive functions.
In a Feb. 2014 Psychology Today post, Victoria L. Dunckley, MD reports that neuroimaging research shows excessive screen time damages the brain. She cites studies reporting that internet-addicted youth showed reduced cortical thickness, impaired cognitive function and impaired dopamine function.
[Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a brain chemical that has many functions affecting memory, behavior and cognition, pleasurable reward, attention, sleep , mood and learning. Excess and deficiency of this vital chemical is the cause of several disease conditions. Parkinson's disease and drug addiction are some of the examples of problems associated with abnormal dopamine levels.]
Dr, Dunckley writes that excessive screen-time contributes to a hyper-aroused nervous system, sensory overload and lack of restorative sleep. It also appears to impair brain structure and cognitive function. From puberty into the mid-twenties, the brain’s pre-frontal lobe (where executive function skills are seated) goes through massive developmental changes. Frontal lobe development is largely the determining factor for success in every area of life, Dr. Dunckley goes on, from having a sense of well-being to academic and career success.
Many of the high school students in my practice the past few years have suffered from poor reading and undeveloped executive function and social skills. However, they are excellent at gaming. Two to six hours a day on a smartphone, tablet or computer is normal. Their pre-frontal brains are not set up for real thinking and learning for success. Therapeutic work and training can help, but the first thing to do is to curb the gaming/screen time. Our kids need to become well-rounded socially, emotionally and academically in order to be happy and productive in REAL life.
by Ann Conolly with Janet Soller and Karen Wallace
Published by: Alpha Major, 2011
Music Making a Difference: Students with Learning Challenges
Publication: American Music Teacher (Magazine/Journal)
Date: February 1, 2014
Publisher: Music Teachers National Association, Inc.
Volume: 63 Issue: 4 Page: 55(2)
"Drawing on her experience as a learning disabilities specialist, Ann Conolly provides a wealth of information and insight into the struggles and challenges facing children with learning difficulties. She has created a useful reference manual for music teachers dealing with learning-challenged students, in collaboration with music educators Soller and Wallace.
The authors divide the book into four major sections. In the first two sections, they provide a broad overview of learning differences and the characteristics of major learning issues such as dyslexia and sensory integration disorder. The final two sections focus on communicating the benefits of music instruction, interviewing prospective students and preparing for students with learning challenges. Throughout the sections, quick summaries, lists or ideas are included beside the text in colored boxes. Additionally, ample space is available for personal note taking. Each section concludes with possible book club discussion questions for music educators groups that may consider using this manual as part of their activities.
The authors include several tables throughout the book listing various characteristics of a particular learning challenge. They also incorporate examples of how that trait would manifest itself during a music lesson and suggestions on how to help the student work through that challenge. I found these tables particularly enlightening and useful. They are well organized and can be used as an easy and convenient reference.
The authors' also provide information on how to interview prospective students and approach a parent if you are concerned about a learning problem. Conolly even provides a sample vision screening survey to use if one suspects a vision issue. Although we can investigate the causes and characteristics of different learning challenges, I am wary of music educators using surveys or checklists to help parents determine whether their child possibly has a learning issue. These resources are informative, but I wish Conolly stressed that her materials are not to be used as a diagnostic tool.
The most thought-provoking aspect of this book is the authors' unwavering belief that music is for every child, even those with learning challenges. They also emphasize that music has a nourishing effect on the brain, especially for those with learning challenges. This book is an empowering read for teachers taking on the challenge of educating learning disabled children."
-Reviewed by Amanda Montgomery
Orangeburg, South Carolina
April is DEAR month, time to Drop Everything And READ! There are so many reasons to read aloud to and with your children...
I'm going to think of ten reasons right here:
- Children love to snuggle close or just sit near their parents and have that undivided attention and time.
- The sound of Mom's or Dad's voice is reassuring and calming to children, feeding their souls.
- Hearing parents read and sounding out words themselves develops early language, including auditory processing skills.
- Listening and comprehending are necessary skills that is grow when children hear parents read interesting books to them.
- Exploring the library together and bringing home stacks of books helps you get to know and develop your child's interests.
- Reading good quality books opens up new worlds to your child.
- Children who read about other countries and cultures become more accepting of new people and new ideas.
- Books shared give new topics of conversation while riding in the car or having meals together.
- For older children, shared reading and discussion cultivates higher level thinking skills and good working vocabularies.
- Learning to read that longer book develops powers of concentration and a sense of accomplishment.
- We learn to write well by reading many books by gifted writers. Strong readers are therefore better at expressing themselves in writing.
There! I gave eleven reasons, and I could go on, but my new books are calling... I'm going to drop everything and read tonight!
As soon as Spring Break is over, parents start calling for summer reading camps or programs. It's important to choose carefully. What will be the most effective training in a short amount of time for a struggling or a reluctant reader? If the child hasn't caught on already to the best teaching practices of well-meaning teachers, does this young one need more of the SAME? How to improve this picture?
Some struggling readers have undiagnosed auditory processing problems. That is, the hearing may be perfect but the brain isn't getting a good message from the neural pathways of the inner ear. This problem must be addressed well in order for reading skills and social confidence to develop. Yes, auditory processing has everything to do with learning to read well and with developing self-confidence!
Other struggling readers have a right-brain approach to a left-brain activity. That is, they look at each separate word as an object to be memorized, as we would look at a lizard or a sandwich. We don't scan those from left to right - one glance and we recognize the object. But with words and sentences, getting the information necessitates automatically scanning rapidly from left to right and knowing the sound codes of our language. It's about the SOUNDS. We can't just tell a child how to do this; it must be explicitly taught and habits trained.
When I teach reading, the mother or dad is always at the table with us. I teach the parents how to reinforce the new knowledge and practices at home, so the time and effort spent with Miss Ann at Austin Learning solutions is very effective.
If you even think your child is beginning to struggle, get the jump on that before a negative attitude toward reading sets in. Two of my current students (1st and 2nd graders) couldn't read "Fat cat sat," last semester, and neither could sit still to pay attention for a lesson. Both children can sit and focus for their lessons now and have made fast reading progress. They are enjoying reading, and their families are very happy with the results. (More about the sitting and focusing successes in the next blog!)
This is so interesting! A graphic designer at the University of Twente in the Netherlands has designed a special font to make reading easier for dyslexic children and adults. Read the article here.
You can see examples of dyslexie and download the font (free of charge for home use) here: dyslexiefont.com