Learn about videogame addictions at new Foundation Series Workshops!

Event Notification – November 23, 2008 – Edmonton and Toronto

The 21st century has witnessed a rapid increase in TV, videogame, iPod, internet use and cell phone use in young children. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I’ve subsequently observed that critical milestones for child motor and sensory development are not being met, negatively impacting on child academic performance and achievement of literacy. Simultaneously there is an increasing incidence of childhood physical, psychological and behavior disorders, often accompanied by the prescription of psychotropic medication. Are these two trends related? While research is sorely lacking in this area, parents, teachers, therapists and family physicians could begin to gain information about existing research. This information would be useful for eventual recommended technology reduction programs.

Zone’in Programs Inc. will be hosting the following two new half day workshops in Edmonton on December 3, 2008 and Toronto December 5, 2008. Please find below biography for Cris Rowan, Zone’in Fact Sheet as well as accompanying research information. Cost of each workshop is $100, or $175 for full day. Visit the Zone’in website www.zonein.ca for products, workshops and training programs to address the impact of technology on child development, go to www.zoneinworkshops.com to register online, or phone Amy at 1-888-8zonein for additional information.

Morning Workshop: 9 AM – noon
A Cracked Foundation – How Virtual Parenting is Destroying Children

A Cracked Foundation raises awareness about the significant damage technology (TV, videogames and internet) has caused to the family unit, and how Virtual Parents are unknowingly inflicting The Triple Disconnect on their children and partners, and offers helpful strategies to bring families back together.

Afternoon Workshop: 1 – 4 PM
Mixed Signals – Connection to Technology is Disconnecting Child Development

Mixed Signals raises public awareness regarding the damaging impact of technology (TV, videogames and internet) on child development, and provides creative initiatives for schools, homes and communities to create ‘sustainable’ children.

Cris Rowan, BScOT, BScBi, SIPT, Approved Provider AOTA and CAOT
CEO Zone’in Programs Inc.
6840 Seaview Rd.
Sechelt, BC V0N3A4
604-885-0986 office, 604-885-0389 fax, 604-740-2264 cell
email crowan@zonein.ca
website www.zonein.ca


Cris Rowan…

committed to easing the job of learning for children is a well-known pediatric occupational therapist, speaker and author to parents, health and education professionals throughout North America. Cris is an expert in the field of sensory integration, learning, attention, fine motor skills and the impact of TV and videogames on child development. Cris has a BSc’s both in Occupational Therapy and in Biology and is a SIPT certified pediatric sensory specialist. Over the past decade, Cris has provided over 200 keynotes and workshops, published the monthly Development Series Newsletter, created the Zone’in, Move’in and Unplug’in educational programs for schools and homes, and started Zone’in Training programs for registered occupational therapists. Cris is author of the Unplug – Don’t Drug policy initiative for Canadian physicians, health and education government, and is in the process of completing her book A Cracked Foundation: Reversing the Effects of Technology on Child Development.

Fact Sheet

Reviewing the impact of technology on child development and behavior.

Technology Overuse

  • Throughout most of human history child engagement in rough and tumble outdoor play and imaginary games resulted in the achievement of adequate sensory, motor and attachment development required for attention and learning (1-3).
  • Today’s average household media environment includes three TV’s, three DVD players, two videogame consoles, three iPods, two cell phones and one computer (4).
  • Children now average 6.5 hours per day TV and videogame use, with over 65% of children using TV’s in their bedrooms (5).
  • ‘Baby TV’ now occupies 2.2 hours per day for the 0-2 year old population, and 4.5 hours per day for 3-5 year olds and is causally linked to developmental delays (6,7). This situation has prompted France to ban its broadcasters from airing TV shows aimed at children under three years of age (8).
  • Canadian children were granted a “D” grade for inactivity in 2008 by Active Healthy Kids Canada, citing TV and videogames as the primary cause (9).
  • TV and videogame use accounts for 60% of childhood obesity, and is now considered a North American ‘epidemic’ (10,11).
  • Preliminary studies indicate increases in attention difficulty, poor academic achievement, aggression and sleep impairment may be attributable to childhood technology overuse (12-15).

Developmental Delays and Obesity

  • A 2006 Canadian study reported one in six children have a developmental disability (18), with Autism prevalence now 1 in 160 in Canada (19).
  • Sensory Processing Disorder affects 1 in 20 children www.SPDFoundation.net.
  • Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey reported 17% of US children had a developmental disability, resulting in 1.5 times more physician visits, 3.5 times more hospital days, twice the number of lost school days and a 2.5 fold increase in the likelihood of repeating a school grade compared to a non-developmentally disabled child (20).
  • A 2006 US study reported 32% of children admitted to inpatient pediatric ward demonstrated a developmental disability (21).
  • Only 55-65% of developmental disabilities are detected prior to school age entry (16).
  • 6% of US children have speech and language impairment, 8% a learning disability, 7% ADHD and 0.5% Autism with 13.2% accessing special education assistance (17).
  • In 1996, 10% of Canadian children ages 7-13 years were obese (22), with estimated economic costs of 1.8 billion (21). In 2004, just eight years later, this number is 50% higher with a prevalence of obesity at fully 15% of Canadian children (23).

Psychological Disorders and Psychotropic Medication

  • Recent studies document a rise in psychological disorders in children reporting increasing incidence of bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety (24-27).
  • Associated behaviors may be confusing for parents, teachers and physicians, and could be easily misunderstood, possibly resulting in psychiatric diagnosis and prescription of psychotropic medication (28-31).
  • Between 1991 and 1995, prescriptions for psychotropic medications in the 2 – 4 year old toddler population, as well as in children and youth tripled (32-34). 80% of this medication was prescribed by family physicians and pediatricians (35).
  • 28-30% of children receiving psychotropic medication are on multiple medications (36).
  • Limited high quality evidence guiding appropriate dosing and inexperience in documentation of long term effects of these prescriptions in children may mean that these children undergo unquantified risks (37-40).

Missing Critical Factors for Child Development

  • In primitive times, human beings engaged in physical labor, and sensory stimulation was natural and simple. Rapid advances in technology and transportation have resulted in a physically sedentary society with high frequency, duration and intensity of sensory stimuli (41).
  • These environmental changes are faster than human being’s ability to adapt and evolve. Children who immerse themselves in virtual reality may exhibit signs of sensory deprivation, as they become disconnected from the world of physical play and meaningful interactions.
  • Canadian parents spend an average 3.5 minutes per week participating in meaningful conversation with their children (42).
  • Overuse of TV and videogames may result in children lacking essential connection with themselves, others and nature (43).
  • Three critical factors for healthy physical and psychological child development are movement, touch and connection to other humans (44,45).
  • Developing children require 2-3 hours per day of active rough and tumble play to achieve adequate stimulation to the vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile sensory systems (46). This type of sensory input ensures normal development of posture, bilateral coordination and optimal arousal states (47).
  • Infants with low tone, toddlers failing to reach motor milestones, and children who are unable to pay attention or achieve basic foundation skills for literacy, are frequent visitors to pediatric physiotherapy and occupational therapy clinics (48).
  • The use of safety restraint devices such as infant bucket seats and toddler carrying packs and strollers, have further limited movement, touch and connection, as have TV and videogames.
  • Many of today’s parents perceive outdoor play is ‘unsafe’ (49), limiting essential developmental components usually attained in outdoor rough and tumble play.
  • Dr. Montagu reports that when children lack touch and human connection, they may respond by ‘turning in’ (anxiety, depression) or ‘turning out’ (aggression) (50).
  • These complex behaviors may be confusing for parents, teachers and physicians, possibly leading psychiatric diagnosis and subsequent prescription of psychotropic medication.

Costs to the Health and Education Sectors

  • Extrapolation from previously cited research indicates estimated annual costs to the health care system to support children with developmental disabilities, psychiatric and behavioral disorders are $9.3 billion, obesity are $3 billion and medication costs are $0.3 billion, totaling $12.5 billion.
  • Estimated annual costs to the education system for failing literacy are $10 billion (43) and educational support of children with developmental disabilities are $13 billion, totaling $23 billion.
  • In summary, the total annual costs to the health and education sectors to address problems that strongly correlate with child technology addictions are $35.5 billion.


  • In 2001 the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement recommending that children less than two years of age should not watch any TV or videogames (51).
  • They further recommended that children older than two should restrict usage to one hour per day if they have any physical, mental or social problems, and two hours per day maximum if they don’t (52).
  • Dr. Dimitri Christakis found that each hour of TV watched daily between the ages of 0 and 7 years equated to a 10% chance of attention problems by age seven years (53).
  • Further evidence suggests some parents may have technology addictions (54).
  • Adult Internet Addiction has been proposed for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (55).
  • This fact supports possible implementation of school based technology reduction programs.
  • A randomized controlled trial of a 6-month classroom curriculum to reduce TV and videogame use resulted in not only statistically significant reduction in technology use, but also showed relative decreases in obesity (48).

Action Plans

1. Physicians -

When evaluating child behavior, physicians may wish to consider a program of lessening exposure to technology. Known as Unplug – Don’t Drug, a system that is fully explained at www.zonein.ca, such a trial would require child and family undergo a three month period of unplugging from all forms of technology such as TV, videogames, iPods, computers and cell phones (other than as required for school and work purposes). Current practice would suggest that unless clear safety issues are present, such a trial may be beneficial prior to prescription of psychotropic medication. An Unplug – Don’t Drug trial may provide physicians and families with essential information regarding family environment and lifestyle, at the same time reducing the likelihood of further psychiatric or behavioral evaluation and treatment. Physicians could advocate for elimination of pharmaceutical advertising of psychotropic medication in parent, home and gardening magazines, and refuse pharmaceutical free samples of psychotropic medication intended for children.

2. Health Professionals -

While ensuring proper development and attachment is primarily the responsibility of parents, health professionals are frequently the first to detect delays in development and ‘abnormal’ behaviors in children, and could subsequently question parents regarding their family’s TV and videogame usage. Health professionals could follow this line of questioning with provision to parents of relevant information regarding the adverse effects of high technology usage on child development and behavior, and possibly recommend an ‘unplug’ trial if appropriate. Health professionals could train parents regarding strategies for TV and videogame reduction, as well as non-pharmaceutical strategies on how to manage behavior problems and developmental delays. Health professional can teach parents how to assist their children to balance TV and videogame use with movement. Health professionals could advocate to researchers for addition of more environmental parameters in behavioral research, such as the role of technology use and differing parenting styles.

3. Education Professionals -

Classroom teachers, special education staff, and school administrators are also early players in the identification of child development or behavior as ‘abnormal’, and often unknowingly create undue pressure on parents and physicians to pursue a diagnosis and medicate these students. Many parents have reported they have been told by their child’s school system that either the parents seek medical help for their child, or the school will put their child in a special education class (not desirable by any parent). Teachers who have children on medication in their classroom will be the first to say these medicated children become more ‘manageable’, a further incentive to refer more students for diagnosis and medication. Children on medication unfortunately don’t do as well as teachers and parents would like to think long term. Research shows children on psychotropic medication have lower academic scores, increased drop out rates from high school, lower paying jobs, and lower entrance into university. Another factor to consider in the present rise in diagnosis and medication of children is that the Canadian education system supports physical and mental diagnoses with increased funding, attractive to any school administration. Schools could implement yearly technology reduction programs, provide education to parents, as well as increase a child’s physical work in classrooms, gyms and at recess.

4. Parents -

Parents are the foundation for child development. If a child doesn’t form a healthy attachment with their primary parent(s), their ability to pay attention and do well at school will be affected. The critical period for early attachment formation is 0 – 7 months, and attachment is best formed through play. Creating a balance between TV and videogame use and play is one of the many jobs of being a successful parent. For example, allowing one hour of “box time” for one hour of hard physical outdoor work (bike up hill, haul wood, dig in garden), encouraging daily hugs, playful wrestling, nature games, and no TV in bedrooms or during dinner will go a long way toward a building a healthy, happy child. Children really want their parents, not a babysitter in a box.

5. Zone’in -

Zone’in Programs Inc. is a company that provides products, workshops and training to reverse the detrimental effects of technology on the developing child. Zone’in Products were designed by a pediatric occupational therapist to address sensory impairment, motor delays and skill development necessary prior to unplugging from technology. Zone’in Foundation Series Workshops offer health and education professionals up to date research, education and proven tools and techniques to address physical, psychological and behavioral disorders in children. Zone’in Training provides instructor training for pediatric occupational therapists to lead Foundation Series Workshops.


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