Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Prolonged gadget use could stunt a child’s academic growth – psychologist

Published:Thursday | March 4, 2021 | 12:07 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


After almost one year of virtual classes for students attending early-childhood through to tertiary educational institutions in Jamaica, clinical psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell is warning against the practice of having children spending protracted, uninterrupted periods on electronic devices.

“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,” said Bell, who was speaking at a webinar titled ‘Children’s Milestones and Assessment Matters: Let’s Talk and Act Early’, which was hosted by the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College Diagnostic and Early Intervention Centre on Monday.

Last March, all educational institutions were ordered closed, initially for 14 days. However, while over 100 schools have since returned to face-to-face classes for students sitting external examinations, public schools have not yet returned to their pre-COVID-19 operations and are involved in virtual teaching/learning.


According to Bell, it is critical for children to be interacting with other children, which cannot be achieved with the vast majority of their time being taken up using technological gadgets. She is also of the view that teachers should do more to explore the minds of their students to get a clear understanding of what they are thinking.

“Children need to interact, they need to be able to exercise their own creative mind, because sitting down and watching something is sedentary,” said Bell.

Bell also noted that online learning is very difficult for toddlers, as learning is more cognitively concentrated and structured and their attention span is short.

“When they are using a tablet for games, and so on, that can be engaging for 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,” continued Bell.

“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 (intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment) listening and not participating in a process,” added Bell.