‘Ba­bies now bond with mum and dad’s iPads’

Sunday Territorian - - NEWS - NATASHA BITA

BA­BIES are bond­ing with iPads in place of par­ents, as the di­ag­no­sis of child­hood autism and ADHD soars.

Pi­o­neer neu­rother­a­pist Dr Mari Swingle, au­thor of i-Minds, yes­ter­day warned that de­vices are in­ter­fer­ing with kids’ brain de­vel­op­ment to cre­ate an “autis­tic world’’.

“Chil­dren are start­ing to at­tach to ob­jects in­stead of care­tak­ers,’’ the Cana­dian ex­pert, who will be key­note speaker at a Na­ture Play Aus­tralia con­fer­ence in Aus­tralia in March, told The Sun­day Ter­ri­to­rian. “They don’t want mum to soothe them when they’re upset, they want mum’s phone.

“When you give an in­fant a screen, it com­pletely sub­sti­tutes the par­ents so they start to at­tach to the ob­ject.”

Dr Swingle said chil­dren who de­pend on de­vices are not learn­ing about emo­tional reg­u­la­tion from their par­ents, and are de­vel­op­ing “autis­tic-like char­ac­ter­is­tics”.

“Chil­dren are los­ing the abil­ity to read fa­cial cues and emo­tions,’’ she said. “I think we’re mov­ing to­wards an autis­tic world.

“We have the mak­ing of a dif­fer­ent form of hu­man … a non-emo­tional, non-con­nected species.”

Aus­tralian oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist Yvonne Wink yes­ter­day said chil­dren were suf­fer­ing “sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety’’ due to a lack of face time with busy and screen-dis­tracted par­ents.

She said chil­dren were throw­ing tantrums to get parental at­ten­tion.

“They’re learn­ing that if I scream, or punch my sis­ter or cry, mum and dad will give me at­ten­tion straight­away,’’ she said.

“Chil­dren are find­ing it harder to sit still — they’re not even learn­ing to sit still at a ta­ble with­out a de­vice.

“They get frus­trated re­ally eas­ily, they don’t have so­cial prob­lem-solv­ing skills and look­ing some­one in the eye is be­com­ing rare.’’

Ms Wink said she had been work­ing in the field for 30 years and chil­dren’s be­hav­iour had changed markedly since the in­tro­duc­tion of smart­phones and iPads over the past decade.

Autism rates among Aus­tralian chil­dren have dou­bled since the in­tro­duc­tion of ipads in 2010.

But Speech Pathol­ogy Aus­tralia spokesman Dr David Trem­bath said the rise in autism rates was co­in­ci­den­tal, due to changes in di­ag­no­sis.

De­vices are in­ter­fer­ing with chil­dren’s brain de­vel­op­ment, ac­cord­ing to a pioneer­ing neu­rother­a­pist.

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