4 tips to boost your child's intelligence and mental health in digital age | Health - Hindustan Times
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4 tips to boost your child's intelligence and mental health in digital age

By, New Delhi
May 28, 2024 12:57 PM IST

Excess screentime leads to premature thinning of the cerebral cortex of kids. Author Neha Hiranandani shares tips to sharpen your child's brain in digital age.

Childhood is the best time to learn things and enhance your brain prowess. However, in digital age, this constant use of devices and gadgets might hinder this process by reducing the challenges our brain needs to grow. Use of digital devices can shorter attention span of kids making it difficult for them to focus on tasks for extended periods. The instant gratification from constant internet access can limit critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as children rely on quick answers rather than working through challenges. (Also read: Childhood obesity on rise: 6 effective ways to tackle junk food addiction in kids)

Staying glued to gadgets all the time is also impacting the development of social skills in children as they lose interest in face-to-face interactions which are essential for building of emotional intelligence and empathy. (Freepik)
Staying glued to gadgets all the time is also impacting the development of social skills in children as they lose interest in face-to-face interactions which are essential for building of emotional intelligence and empathy. (Freepik)

Staying glued to gadgets all the time is also impacting the development of social skills in children as they lose interest in face-to-face interactions which are essential for building of emotional intelligence and empathy. Exposure to blue light from screens can also disrupt their sleep which can affect brain function and learning abilities.

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Author Neha Hiranandani, the author of parenting book - iParent: Embracing Parenting in the Digital Age shares tips for parents that can help boost their child's intelligence in this digital era and improve their mental health.

"‘Screenagers’ are not the only ones affected. Nine and ten-year-olds indulging in over two hours of screen time per day scored lower on thinking and language tests. Some kids saw a premature thinning of their cerebral cortex as they spent time on screens—their grey matter was literally disappearing! But living in a tech-free world isn’t an option so how can you boost your child's mental health and intelligence in this digital age?" says Hiranandani in an interview with HT Digital.

She shares tips for parents to help improve boost intelligence of their children.

1. Minimise the multitask

Our kids often insist that they are perfectly capable of doing their homework as they sit with a phone in one hand and a tablet in the other. Using their devices as integrated supercomputers, slot machines, porn portals, date finders and messaging services simultaneously, they’re frantically multitasking. But research shows that multitasking virtually guarantees that your performance will suffer.

The suffering could be trivial, like scoring a few marks lower on an exam but it could also be disastrous, which is what happens during most texting and driving accidents. Our brains weren’t designed to constantly juggle balls like circus performers and so, having three tabs open while writing a paper is simply not what we were made to do. Encourage the kids to end the multitasking. We weren’t built for it – it’s like asking a fish to climb a tree.

2. Learn from the Dutch

As modern-day parents, we’ve become masters at overscheduling our children. Mandarin classes need to be balanced with piano tuitions and of course, every kid should be learning at least two sports. ‘Team sports build teamwork, but solo sports build leadership,’ we breathlessly insist as we drag our kids along to both football camp and tennis lessons.

Leading overscheduled lives with a laptop in one hand, a tablet in another and a phone crammed under their ear, the kids are living at a frantic, frenetic pace. So, when they’re advised to put their phone away, they wonder what to do instead. Do nothing, says ‘niksen’, a Dutch practice that is gaining popularity among psychologists worldwide. Do absolutely nothing. Set aside the phone and enjoy the pause. Stare out of a window. Lie awake in bed. Watch the grass grow. Every artist will agree on this: creativity is usually born out of moments of nothingness. It’s why you often have your best ideas when you’re taking a long shower or stirring a pot.

For too long, we’ve assumed that busy kids are headed for success when in fact endless busyness could actually hinder progress. So, the next time your child asks you what to do, reply clearly, ‘Do nothing.’ It isn’t laziness, it might be the most important skill they’ll ever learn.

3. Offload, selectively

From sending them reminders to call their mother to doing their Maths homework, our kids’ phones can do it all for them. But in a world where they can hand over their entire brains to technology, our kids must intentionally decide how much they want to offload. For example, at a museum, you are more likely to remember a painting if you actually look at it rather than snap a photo of it.

Remind the kids to take the time to experience the things that really matter—things of beauty, works of art, a full moon— rather than just quickly offloading them onto their phones to post on Instagram. If you want something to live forever, it might be safer to store it in your heart instead of your phone’s photo album.

4. Find your flow

Recently, I was at a violin recital. When the violinist placed her bow on the instrument, every person in the audience forgot about their phone and sat back, transfixed. The performer, an older woman in black slacks with her hair in a low bun, was completely lost in the music of her strings. She was in the flow. Technology has given us a cognitive gift by freeing up some of our mental capacity.

To use this space just to doomscroll through cat videos would be such a waste. Instead, what if we could use it intentionally to build real expertise and go deep into something that really matters? To let the ego fall away, to allow time to fly, to achieve a zen-like state where every movement follows seamlessly from the previous one. It’s true that most of us won’t end up being concert violinists but I’m realizing that you can achieve flow even while doing the dishes.

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