Teenagers these days seem glued to their mobile phones. Obsessed with social media or the latest apps. But as technology develops, there are more apps and games suitable for younger and younger children. Is the rise in online use healthy for our children?
Don’t get me wrong, the internet is amazing! The benefits of having any question within seconds are undeniable, however the amount of misinformation and fake news online increasing. We might forget that our children are a lot more impressionable than us, making them less capable of ignoring the bad information.
Much worse is the psychological risk associated with online use. Social Media bullying is rampant in children and teenagers, which can lead to anxiety and depression. It’s why the UK government have recommended limiting children’s internet use, suggesting regular screen breaks entirely. But everything these days has a screen? And what to do with all the extra time you get back?
Reading is a cheaper alternative to the latest tech, and there is plenty of growing evidence to suggest that reading is perfect for childhood development. Here’s just a few of the many benefits children have when reading, and how it can combat internet over-use.
Reading improves concentration & memory
It’s very easy to lose entire evenings staring at a screen, flicking back and forth between apps as mobile games like candy crush and clash of clans, click-bait headlines and short form videos all compete for our attention.
Social Media’s generates revenue through clicks, and so uses every psychological trick in the book to grab your attention and get you to click through to the website. These tricks are called persuasive design, and our children are particularly susceptible to this. Persuasive design encourages additive behaviour and has led to shortening attention spans which can be particularly damaging for a child’s development.
By sitting down a couple of evenings a week to read for fun, attention span can show improvements after a couple of weeks. Reading together with your children is a time to de-clutter the mind, as you both sit down to focus on the story. Using sound effects and funny noises, as well as having your child to join in, are all ways you make reading time more interesting and hold your attention.
Personalising stories for your children are another way to keep things interesting. Online shops like Custom Gifts have printed books which add your child’s name to the story, which is a way to make story time extra special.
Sometimes it takes a lot to keep a child entertained. Subscriptions to streaming services, the latest video games consoles and expensive trips out, there is a rising cost in keeping children entertained. Reading now seems like a cheaper option.
Consider that it takes on average ten hours to read a book, you can see how much more cost-effective reading is when comparing to the average kids’ film, which will cost over three times the price, and last just an hour and a half.
Children Reading Boosts Brain Power
As parents, we can all agree that we want the absolute best for our children. But my kids are their own people and being overly pushy towards studying and extra curricula activities can lead to tantrums and bad blood between which can last for days. I wish I’d learnt sooner that reading for fun can actually boost brain power as research conducted by UCL has shown. Reading for pleasure has more of an effect on a child’s cognitive development than parent’s education or how much the family earns.
In fact, there are numerous studies which show that reading boosts brain power, and it seems even more important for young children. Research conducted by Science Daily has shown reading books with a pre-school child has been shown to have a positive effect on reading skills and size of vocabulary four years later, and children who read often by age 10 are more likely to gain higher results in maths, vocabulary and spelling tests, another study has shown.
Tips for reading with children
By this point I hope I have convinced you of the benefits of reading. Here are a couple of tips for helping you read with your child:
- Choose somewhere away from noise/distractions – a quiet room away such as a bedroom, away from television and technology.
- Start young – babies at first will start off chewing the books, but soon they will enjoy helping you turn the pages and will be soothed by your voice.
- Do it as a group – take your time whilst reading through the book. Pause to describe the pictures and encourage you kids to read the images too! Get everyone in the family joining in too!
- Have fun – it doesn’t matter if you’re not a brilliant reader yourself. Once you gain a bit of confidence you can start doing animal noises and funny sounds, and once you get confident with that, you can give the stories character’s their own unique voices!
It’s all about balance in the end. I’m not perfect, my kids watch TV, play on tablets and game consoles, but they are also avid readers, when they go to bed and when they have quiet time, they get through so many books it’s hard to keep up. Daniel loves bringing us stories to read. They’re amazing humans! What’s your favourite story to read with the children? Dear Zoo is my favourite for young kids, we love the Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and we had a favourite called Danny the dozy dinosaur that William loved to be repeated every night. Happy reading!