Parents dealing with challenges of over-exposure, short attention spans and consumerism must understand that most of these problems are inter-linked and overlapping. These issues result in behavioural problems, which could have their roots in sensory disorders and the environment the child is growing up in.
Sensory inputs include touch, pressure, temperature, pain, balance and position. The brain analyses sensory input and then causes action such as walking, talking and running. The ability to perceive and absorb is greater than the ability for output.
New research suggests that if there is some imbalance or disorder in sensation, children may display either of these problems. Hypersensitive (more than average) children would be averse to touch, loud sounds or a stimulus in the media, as it feels its impact more than an average child. On the other hand, a hypo-sensitive (less than average) child will seek more and more in terms of action or attention as it does not feel gratified easily.
Going by the basic human instinct of instant gratification, parents should see if the child is unable to control his or her actions in terms of focus or demands because of a sensory disorder.
Another equally important factor is the environment, which includes the external stimuli of TV, computer games, Internet and advertisements. These exist not only at home but also at school and among friends. If a child has one of the above conditions, it will respond to the external stimuli accordingly.
A hypo-sensitive child will perhaps be restless, need more movement and seem distracted. Parents must understand that he/she is unable to control it. For example, it is important to know if a child stole food because he wanted to steal for the sake of it or because he was hungry.
Earlier, stimuli were limited to reading and playing, so issues went unnoticed. Moreover, reading helps neurological development unlike games involving killing and shooting characters on play stations or unsupervised TV watching.
Children adapt to the environment quickly and since these changes are not conspicuous, they grow up imbibing these minor shortfalls. These may include short attention spans, restlessness and inability to control urges to buy.
A survey conducted by our centre shows “unsupervised and long hours of electronic media exposure has behavioural consequences in children like aggressive and delinquent behaviour. The electronic media can serve an important role in the development of emotional maturity and positive social behaviour; however, it needs to be monitored and should not be substituted for other forms of recreation”.
If the parents do not cut down on exposure and stabilise influences on their children, then it is extremely hard to change or convert once they grow up.
As told to Prachi Pinglay