As children move from the Toddler environment to the Primary classrooms, they make a shift in how they take in the world around them. Whereas children between 0 and 3 absorb information indiscriminately, children from 3 to 6 begin to refine all that input into a mental filing cabinet. They organize information, learning to name it and categorize it, as they shift from a profoundly sensorial interaction with the world to the preliminary stages of abstract thinking. For this reason, it’s critical to support children through this refining stage with clarity by eliminating distractions that could muddy the waters.
As we’ve shared in previous editions of the Observer, of particular importance for the Primary child is developing the ability to concentrate and immerse himself in his work and play. Dr. Jyothsna Bhat, PsyD, has noticed that children with overexposure to technology and those diagnosed with attention deficit disorders display similar issues with focus and concentration.
“Children living with ADHD,” she writes, “can focus easily on certain things such as video games and television because these things provide them with instant gratification […] and give them a ‘hit’ of dopamine that keeps them enthralled. On the other hand, children who simply spend large amounts of time with their electronics have trained their brain to receive heightened stimulation and the accompanying dopamine boosts.”
Limits, therefore, are important. If you allow your child screen time at this age, keep it minimal and consistent, at a maximum of an hour a day, per WHO suggestions. Do your child’s brain a favor and create device-free time and screen-free rooms where your Primary child can truly focus on one thing at a time. (And you can, too.)
Primary children are learning the appropriate ways to engage with the world: how to play with friends, how to be polite in social settings, how to move through space with control of their bodies. How do they learn to do it all? They intentionally observe adults in their lives. If we model, even unintentionally, how to move through the world with our attention always partially fixed on our phones, they’ll undoubtedly pick it up (even if they’re years away from having a device of their own).