Michael Mendizza

Writer, Filmmaker

The Number One On-Line Anything for Children Age Two… What?


Learning and Education, Parenting

It breaks my heart to see the propaganda. The Number One On-Line Anything for Children Age Two complete with college cap and diploma. This happy, smiling fake mouse magically appeared signing off from Facebook. How many hits; 892,469 likes and 50,017 talking about? How many young parents have been lured by the Hurried Child, Baby Einstein, early is better, screen time is educational, get junior off to a good, NO the best possible start, to keep up with the neighbors and the dumb-down standards, competing for that coveted position at the XYZ Preschool hoping she will make the cut.

Content is NOT the issue and I am not picking on this latest iteration, ABCmouse.com Early Learning Academy. Two year old human beings should not be staring at screens. As you will discover, five, seven and ten year old children will benefit from spending as little screen time as possible during these critical developmental years. If a child can learn to stand on two legs and speak his or her mother tongue, even multiple languages, without formal training, the two most complex tasks they will ever master in their life, and accomplish this and a billion other complex challenges in thirty-six months, whatever they are doing ‘academically’ in preschool and kindergarten, which is completely out of pace with nature’s billion year curriculum, is a bad joke.

Schooling not based on authentic play is conditioning, behavior modification, conformity training driven by a desperate need to win approval. All of the so called screen based educational programs justify their commercial profits on the same assumptions that drive compulsory schooling. We have been deeply conditioned to believe that forced schooling is there to enhance a child’s true development. If you buy the schooling myth, and most do, these products, based on the same myth, are the perfect complement. Your child is occupied, quiet and distracted for hours, days, weeks and you feel good, convinced it is for their own good. Baloney!

The golden rule is, and I quote from an invitational symposium attended by world-class computer, media and early childhood specialists including Joseph Chilton Pearce and Jerry Mander, author of The Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, hosted by physicist Fritjof Capra; the less screen time prior to age eleven the better. That includes dumb-phones, tablets, computers and televisions. That’s right. Less is best.

The human body is alive, pulsing with radiant meaning. Electronic devices pulse, buzz, vibrate and glow in the dark but every form of virtual reality is as dead as Marley’s door nail. Joe calls these devices counterfeits of natural processes. The more time a developing brain interacts with dead things the less alive, sensitive, aware, responsible (able to respond) to life that body-brain becomes. When zombie technologies dominate what a child experiences, the more zombie-like the child becomes. Emerson 1803 – 1882) put it simply; ‘the weaver becomes the web.’ If we want to get fancy we cite epigenetic literature. Genes respond to environmental messages. We become what we experience.

Twenty or so experts gathered, discussed and inquired for several days. From conception to age eleven, more or less, radiant life forms are the optimum experience for developing human beings; grass, frogs, sky, trees, puppies, water, flowers, vegetables growing in the yard. Best of all available, stress free adult human beings egger to play. Not dead, zombie counterfeits. I will never forget Joseph Chilton Pearce weeping, literally, during a demonstration of the latest digital early dumbing-down program for young children. He understood how gullible well-meaning, over stressed parents are, how easily manipulated by the slick propaganda, the Fisher Price primary colors, the Disney look, the zoom-zoom-pow media blitz. Oh, how easy it is to point to the flashing tablet. Look, darling! Touch it here, darling. Where is darling? She disappeared. Oh, there she is, silent, enchanted by a zombie Pied Piper, a glowing device that sucks her most precious gift, fully awake, engaged human attention out of her little body, mommy and daddy smiling, proud. Look how she quickly masters the newest. Isn’t she amazing!

Why eleven? It has to do with something called neural pruning. Neural pruning is the process of removing neurons that are no longer used or useful in the brain. The developing brain produces far more neurons than it possibly needs which means the early child has an unlimited capacity to learn. Nature assumes by age eleven that brain has connected all the neurons it needs and releases a pruning agent that dissolves the unused (un-myelinated) cells bringing the house to order. Use it or lose it takes on a whole new meaning. The 5,000 to 8,000 hours of screen time by age five or 10,000 to 16,000 hours by age ten means 10,000 to 16,000 hours NOT experiencing radiant living forms, nature, real living things, the experiences that build empathic connections in the brain. Nature pulls the plug around age eleven and washes the vast untouched, undeveloped capacity down the drain. Give a child all the buzzing techno stuff he or she wants after the brain develops and therefore holds onto that vast neural potential and they will master Warcraft and everything else in a blink. Not so with the zombie fed child.

Yes, it is challenging. We must be the change we want for our children. It is not easy to keep up with the explosive learning of a two year old. And the challenges keep coming. Being engaging at two is boring at four. We need to be available, stress free, curious, imaginative, engaged and engaging with each developmental age and stage. Wow, that is a challenge. We need to be fresh, present, sensitive, observant, masters of spontaneous invention, storytelling, dynamic actors able to fly on magic carpets we conjure, not passive button pushers and mouse clickers. To be that alive and engaging for our children we must see the ever-present techno-zombies for what they are, dead, attention sucking. Do this in the early years and his precious developing brain and body will be full of life and light, creative and happy. She will be too busy to watch screens. She will be creating her own stories and changing the world with her positive energy, imagination and passion – or not. It is up to you. The less screen time prior to age eleven the better. Less is best.

Michael Mendizza

A few links to help…

Virtual Reality is Sensory Deprivation

The Weaver Becomes the Web

The Hurried Child