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JAMAICA | Psychologist warns against prolonged use of electronic gadgets by children

  • Written by Clinton Pickering
  • Published in Health
Featured Child psychologist, Dr Pearnel Bell Child psychologist, Dr Pearnel Bell
MONTEGO BAY,  March 4, 2021 - As thousands of students are forced to get their education virtually, or on-line,  noted child psychologist, Dr Pearnel Bell is advising against having children spending too long a time on electronic devices uninterrupted.

“Parents could stunt a child’s academic growth by too much of an internet-based diet where the child may be losing social skills because he’s not interacting maybe even with the parents,” warned Dr Bell.

She was presenter in a webinar on “Children’s Milestones and Assessment Matters: Let’s Talk and Act Early”, hosted on Monday, March 1, 2021 by the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College Diagnostic and Early Intervention Centre. There were just under 500 online participants.

Dr Bell pointed to the need for interaction with other children and not have their time taken up too much with gadgets.

“Children need to interact, they need to be able to exercise their own creative mind because sitting down and watching something is sedentary,” she said. Also, a teacher should be exploring a child’s mind to see what the child is thinking.

She also pointed out that online learning was very difficult for toddlers. “What happens is that learning is more cognitively concentrated and structured. When they are using a tablet for games and so on, that can be engaging of them for a long time but when it comes to academic work where they have to do a lot of reasoning that can be challenging so there should be shorter work time for the child,” she stated, as they do not have a long attention span. 

 “So while the developmental delays may not be caused by the parent per se, other social and academic skills may be stunted because the parent is using technology to be the teacher and that child’s level of creativity may not be coming out because they’re didactically listening and not participating in a process,” informed Dr Bell.

The author of two books, “A Teacher’s Guide to Understanding the Disruptive Behaviour Disorders” and “My First Book of Relaxation Techniques for Children”, Dr Bell advised that a child should be given work that is age and academically appropriate for them so that they do not lose interest easily. She also advised that children displaying lack of interest be tested to see if they are performing above their current grade level.”

Commenting on the suggestion of parents being in denial about their children’s psychological state, Dr Bell advised that “You shouldn’t feel the parent is in denial, so to speak, because it is difficult to know that you brought child into the world and then you have to face the question of this child not growing as normally as I want the child to.”

Dr Bell related doing an assessment for a young boy a few days ago and getting a complaint from his mother that she went to a hospital with the child and was so humiliated by how healthcare professionals treated him. “She said she felt so horrible at the end of the day where persons who should be taking care are the ones who are making us feel horrible.”

Persons making assessment of children should gently help parents to see from a perspective that what they observe were some of milestones of the child. It is not easy for a parent to see that something is wrong, “So I’m appealing to parents and to teachers, and to all those who come in contact with children who may be showing developmental delay to be kind,” implored Dr Bell.

Meanwhile, Manager of by the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College Diagnostic and Early Intervention Centre, Mrs. Tracy Ann Pinnock noted that sometimes special needs was equated with lack of ability but cited the achievements of some outstanding local and international persons with disabilities to dispel that notion.

Mrs. Pinnock also expressed the view “in this unprecedented time, now more than ever, our children need to reap the benefit of assessment and early intervention.”  She informed that services at the centre were offered free of charge and applications for testing would soon be available online.

Also speaking at the webinar, Sam Sharpe Principal, Dr Lorna Gow Morrison said the coronavirus pandemic had underscored that education required maximum stakeholder involvement and teachers were now receiving increased assistance from parents and other community members.

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Last modified onThursday, 04 March 2021 17:24
  • Countries: Jamaica