Middlesborough council has divided opinion among residents recently with a public campaign directed at parents.
The campaign revolves around a set of digital posters that encourages parents to be engaged with their child rather than their phone. It carries a picture of a child looking fed-up next to a parent busy on their phone.
From the comments made to the reporter in the article it’s clear that people have widely different responses to the poster ranging from being insulted at being told how to parent, to feeling that some parents actually need telling!
The sad thing is that we have probably all witnessed the scenario in the picture where a child is neglected in favour of the technology. And while this may be unavoidable at times, it illustrates a very real danger; the wasted opportunity of helping children develop in ways that cannot be substituted.
The poster suggests that engaging with the child will help them ‘be ready for nursery’. But far beyond that, parental engagement offers the opportunity for development of many skills that enhance later achievement.
It develops language through chatting together, extends an inquiring mind – the precursor to learning – by encouraging curiosity and questioning, builds social awareness through shared observation and interaction with others, enhances mental agility through the stimulation engagement provides, and raises an awareness of the world around them and how it works through a shared experience of it.
Articles about brain development tend to focus on the early years of babyhood. There’s an interesting one here, but there is immeasurable benefit from engaging with the children right through their childhood.
These interactions between parent and child, at whatever age, continually builds skills and cultivates a learning and developing brain. As someone comments in the article, the opportunity to interact with children when they’re small, when they are at their most inquisitive and absorb so much, will never come again.
Communication between parents and children provides the foundation for the education that will follow at a later date. And is as valuable as any other foundations parents might deem important like holding a pen, using a device, or an introduction to books and the written word, for example. But most importantly of all it makes the child feel valued and nurtured, an influential factor in their later achievement.
It’s probably the case that many parents haven’t realised how vital to their child’s progress these simple interactions are. And this poster could act as a gentle reminder.
But is it the remit of the council to be influencing the way we parent?
It would be interesting to hear your comments.