Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Technology, Attachment And Piglets

By By Mary Ruth Branstetter, LCSW, LCAC, RPT, Youth First

            I recently learned a new word from an article I was reading about families and their interactions with their children.  The word is technoference.   Technoference occurs when parents continuously interrupt their face time or one-on-one time with their children to check their electronic devices.  Apparently, increased technoference by a parent results in increased disruptive behavior by the child (e.g. crying, tantrums, acting out, etc.)   

I recently read an article that noted “children born within the last two decades have never known life without digital devices” (J. Lilly, 2018).  I knew that, but the true weight of that fact really hit me when I read it stated that simply. 

At present, it appears that neuroscience is revealing that too much screen time is re-wiring our babies and kids brains, and possibly not in a good way. Bruce Perry, PhD, Jo Ann Deak, PhD and Richard Gaskill, EdD are some of the researchers in this area who focus specifically on children and adolescents, and speak in language that is understandable – especially when it comes to the brain.  Our children are losing some basic social skills and other life skills –

empathy, compassion, use of one’s own imagination, or even how to be alone and quiet due to constant digital stimulation. Desensitization and less human interaction are responsible. They, and a lack of emotional and cognitive development, may explain why our older children still appear oblivious to the dangers of online bullying, sexting, etc., despite numerous warnings.  

            Technology is not going away. The efforts of parents to protect their children with safety settings, personal monitoring and personal decisions regarding use will continue to be a race against time and children’s natural adaptability to the digital age.

My concern is that we help safeguard our babies, children and teens from losing their human attachments and adaptability. That concern comes from educational and professional perspectives.  In relation to education and professional experience, I keep coming back to the work of mid-twentieth-century German psychiatrist Erik Erikson.  Dr. Erikson believed there were eight stages of healthy development one goes through from infancy to later life. 

All of Dr. Erikson's stages, in my understanding, were based upon relationships with others, with self, and with one's view of the world or one's purpose in the world.  I mention Dr. Erikson because his early stages of infancy, being a toddler and early childhood were very much relationship-based (i.e. relationships with parents). 

Much of Erickson’s work was later expounded upon with the primary focus being on, "Attachment Theory," by British psychiatrist, John Bowlby, Ph.D. and American-Canadian psychologist, Mary Ainsworth, Ph.D.  Dr. Ainsworth did extensive work on the importance of attachment during infancy, and early childhood between child and parent.

      Furthermore, work on attachment issues, behavior regulation, etc., is being expanded on by others like American Psychologist Dr. Allan Schore who specializes in Affective Neuropsychology.  Babies need the attention, comfort and playfulness that come from their parents’ personal touch and presence. Toddlers continue to need that too, but also to explore beyond themselves in supervised, solitary imaginative play and active physical play with others – not media devices..   

As for the “Piglets,” they are part of a story; true imaginative play in doll clothes and baby strollers that writing just does not do justice. 

Branstetter serves as Youth First School Worker at St. Joseph School in Vanderburgh County.