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The Effects of Technology on Your child's Neurodevelopment

What is neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity also known as brain plasticity refers to the brains ability to develop and change over time. Young children’s brains are at their most plastic in the first three years. This is the time when optimal learning happens, when the most important neural pathways for speech, language, communication and social/emotional development are established. 

How is technology affecting your child’s neuroplasticity?

In the pre-verbal stage any time your child makes an attempt to communicate with you they will do some or all or variations of the following:

  • Orientate towards you with their head and body.
  • Make eye contact
  • Smile
  • Gurgle
  • Cry
  • Reach out to you
  • Hold out their toy or object
  • Shake their arms and legs when you talk to them
  • Gurgle back when you talk to them
  • Make sounds that start to sound like words
  • Point to objects, food and toys that they want
  • When you point to something interesting, hold attention with you towards that object
  • Visually track an object that you are holding
  • Drop their own toy or object, so that you will pick it up
A child against a background with a brain outline

Typically these pre-verbal behaviours are reinforced by the grown ups in their lives. We reinforce these early behaviours by orientating towards our child and offer them “social feedback” in the form of social verbal interactions: 

  • praise them 
  • chat to them about what they are doing
  • show them something new
  • comment on what is going on around them,
  • lift them up,
  • hug them, 
  • play peek a boo etc.

Typically, the pre-verbal behaviours outlined above should become part of your child’s early communication repertoire. They are the vital pre-cursors to speech and language development. However, those pre-verbal behaviours will only become embedded if we reinforce them on a very thick schedule of reinforcement (that is we respond to them with social/verbal interactions) a lot!!!!!

Unfortunately, our children are in competition with the smart phone in our homes. Each time we orientate and attend to notifications on our phone we become engrossed in the content that has captured our attention. We miss a vast amount of those vital pre-verbal behaviours from our children. Those pre-verbal behaviours don’t get reinforced as thickly as they should. As a result the neural pathways required to secure optimum Speech, Language and Social Communication development are not becoming securely hard wired in our children’ brains.

The smartphone in our home is disrupting this very important early childhood developmental journey. The technology programmed to our phone is capturing our rich adult social attention, the attention that we should be delivering to our children. The most important time in our child’s development, the time when their brains are at their most “plastic” is being hijacked by social media output.

Toddler-Talk was founded to help parents to deliver early intervention strategies to their children. Toddler Talk’s aim is to ensure that every child and parent in Ireland has access to optimal Speech Language and Communication development support at these very vital early stages of  brain plasticity and development.