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Cari Ebert: Screen Time and Child Development

Cari Ebert

Cari Ebert is a nationally recognizedpediatric speech-language pathologist, an early intervention specialist,  apaxia specialist, an autism mom, a public speaker, and an author. Her specialty is early childhood development and she'll be sharing her knowledge this Friday in Bemidji where she'll be conducting the seminar Wired Kids: How Screen Time AffectsEarly Childhood Development.  She joined the morning show where she talked about her work as an early interventionist and the impact screen time is having on mental and social childhood development.

...We know that the average age at which a baby is placed in front of a screen today is about three months of age, and that's very concerning to those of us working with very young children. I've been a speech language pathologist for 25 years now...we are seeing the landscape of play change in an unprecedented manner...when we look at what screen time is displacing,screentime is displacing face-to-face interactions. So what my concern is, is we're getting young children who almost have autistic like characteristics... They're not responding to their name being called. They're in their own world because they're glued to the screen. So what we're finding is when we put the screen away and start working on face-to-face interactions with these very young children, all of the sudden we realize, oh, he's not on the autism spectrum, so the face-to-face interactions and establishing joint attention... that's a really key component of early child development. Something else screentime is displacing is that play based movement. Kids aren't rolling and crawling and walking and climbing and running and jumping and talking and swinging and sliding. You can't do those things when you're in front of a screen.... - Cari Ebert, Early Intervention Specialist, Pediatric SLP

In her February 28th seminar she will discuss the developmental differences between screen based learning and play based, relationship based learning.  

...this is a course on how screentime affects early child development. And so what we're really going to talk about is and this is one of my big points, is that screentime itself is not inherently bad. It's how it's used, the context that it's used, how much it's used. And when we're talking about very young children with developing brains and bodies, we have to understand that those young children learn best through interactions with the important people in their life. I call it relationship based learning...

...Screen based learning is all input. The child doesn't have to have any output. It's really hard to develop functional communication skills. If the child doesn't have to give any output. So we're going to be really talking about how technology has changed the landscape of play. We're going to talk about how excessive screen time can affect the development of language, play and motor skills.

The seminar is being hosted by the Bemidji Early Childhood Collaborativeand runs from 8:30am to 3:30pm at the Calvary Lutheran Church in Bemidji.  In addition to in-depth conversations about the effects screens have on developing minds and social behaviors, Ebert noted that she will help families create a healthy screen time plan for the children in their homes.

We're going to end on a really positive note and really talk about ways to help families establish healthy screentime habits at home, because it is unrealistic to say no screentime, just don't do it. We live in the digital age and you know, technology is not going anywhere. So I really want to empower providers who work with families to be able to establish healthy screentime habits at home by establishing a family media plan...that is what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, that we create a family media plan within every family.

For more information about the seminar, connect with the Bemidji Early Childhood Collaborative.  Registration for the Wired Kids training can be found at Eventbrite

Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. She returned for a second stint in 2016-23. She produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota.