Ask the Experts: Dr Amanda Gummer
Recently the team at Tech-Break HQ spoke with a child psychologist, Dr Amanda Gummer (Child Development Expert & Psychologist), about the worsening problem of tech addictions, the effects it is having on the family and the power of Tech-Break.
How has the pandemic affected tech addiction in society or our overusing of devices?
Dr Amanda Gummer: “It has definitely increased the use of tech but whether it has fuelled addiction is a different question. The pandemic has reduced the opportunities for other forms of activity so it will be key to see how the balance ends up once all of those other activities reopen.”
What impact does excessive tech use have on children in your experience, and what are the benefits of screen-free time for young children?
Dr Amanda Gummer: “The younger the child the more negative impact excessive screen use can have. It is mainly because it prevents other important skill development – e.g. social skills, and attachment. Children’s social development at the point of starting school correlates with their GCSE and A level grades years later so it’s important to make sure social and emotional development is prioritised in the early years. A balanced play diet is as important to children’s social and emotional well-being as a good nutritional diet is to their physical health. Children need plenty of social, active, imaginative, free play and this is not often facilitated through screen-based activities.”
Why is it important for children to see their parents having screen free time and to take tech breaks collectively, rather than just enforcing it for the kids?
Dr Amanda Gummer: “Parents are their children’s version of normal so whatever they do, the children think is normal and even desirable behaviour, so they are likely to copy it.”
What are your long-term concerns for children and teens when they grow into adulthood?
Dr Amanda Gummer: “I am concerned that the real, genuine relationships – the ones that survive life’s ups and downs, will be fewer and less substantial. This can be damaging for people’s mental health. Also, our children’s habits need to be monitored, so children don’t develop compulsive and addictive tendencies towards self-soothing via a device – like many adults already do today.”
From a child’s point of view, why would a product like Tech-Break be more understandable when it comes to screen free time?
Dr Amanda Gummer: “When children do something physical, like putting a device away in a particular place, it can help process and reinforce the routine. Children thrive on routines as it gives them confidence and helps embed healthy habits.”
How does a physical product like Tech-Break help parents enforce screen free time at home?
Dr Amanda Gummer: “Agreeing limits on screen time is great but sometimes parents need a bit of extra help to avoid battles and help children learn to self-regulate. It removes the parent from the enforcer role – especially if the rules have been agreed to by the children.”
Psychologically speaking, why do you think society needs help with controlling tech usage and tech discipline at home?
Dr Amanda Gummer: “Certain activities on screens can be addictive -from games to gambling and social media – they all have addictive elements and developers design the games to be ’sticky’ so it is not surprising that we sometimes struggle to manage them.”
Dr Amanda Gummer
Child Development Expert and Psychologist
Often the media’s go-to expert on child development, play and parenting, Amanda has featured on the BBC, Sky News, LBC and a wide range of print and online press. She created an initiative in 2019 called the ‘balanced play diet’ that looks at the ways children play and how they need to have more active free and imaginative play to aid with their development.