As a Parent Coach and Mentor, I see so many parents every day struggling with issues like hyperactivity, low attention span, aggression, and tantrums in children. I did a lot of research into this and to my surprise the answer was not so obvious. Excess screen time, sugar overload and parental anxiety are undeniable contributors. However, the one common thing I realized was the exposure to colours.
Let me share the story of two children whose parents I coached. (Names of the children have been changed to maintain privacy.)
Colours off Screen – Ayaan was the only child and apple of his family’s eye. After detailed history taking I found - His room was decorated with brightly coloured wall paper, furniture, curtains and toys. The colours were high contrast and extremely bright too – red, blue, yellow and green. The curtains & wallpaper had multi-colour patterns and so did the carpet. Ayaan was never introduced to junk food or sweets, he watched minimal screen (tv or mobile phone) but I found his eyes were straining and stressed.
Ayaan had a low attention span and seemed very distracted and agitated. He spent a lot of time in his room. I asked his parents to have Ayaan spend more time in nature (natural and earthy colours of nature are a stress reliever for the eyes). We also made some simple, inexpensive changes to Ayaan’s room by having more neutral colours, pastels and only a few bright highlights. We also changed the extra bright LED lights in his room. We changed his play area direction to allow more natural light to enter the room. Small changes made a big difference to Ayaan. He was more relaxed and could focus better after a few weeks.
Colours on Screen – Aveer, on the other hand, watched a lot of passive screen time. What is passive screen time you ask? Animated cartoons, movies and Youtube videos that are extremely addictive and brightly coloured with high contrast and refresh rates. The child watches it without any movement, doesn’t even blink their eyes and can sit still for long periods while watching the screen. This fast paced movement on screen and high contrast caused a sensorial imbalance and overstimulated Aveer. He would eat healthy food, and also play in the society garden for 1.5 – 2 hours. His family thought watching YouTube and educational rhymes is perfectly fine as he does everything else well. He started with 20 minutes and now watches 3-4 hours of mobile or TV. This also includes animated movies that the family watches together. This is justified as the adults needed some time for their chores and activities and found it hard to engage and entertain Aveer all day.
Aveer started developing dry eyes and was unable to focus during his online class. He found the class too slow compared to the high movement and brightly coloured, more attractive videos. The moment the screen was off he would be aggressive and angry. He would turn off the device and say his class is done during his online class. The reason was – he woke up early and his parents allowed him 30-60 minutes of cartoons before his online class. What I explained to his parents was – imagine your child eating stale junk food, (its highly overstimulating for the taste buds, very addictive and temporarily satisfying) just before lunch time. Then at lunch you are serving him the most nutritious wholesome freshly made meal with organically grown produce, but Aveer finds it boring and gets angry when you force him to eat it. Rings a bell? This is exactly the effect of Passive Screen time (Cartoons and Animated Videos) over Active High Quality Screen time (Online interactive Learning).
His parents went cold turkey and stopped this passive screen time. In a span of 2 weeks – Aveer was calmer, no aggression, fewer disagreements and started focusing for longer periods during his online class at Toddlers Nursery.
It’s important for the adults to understand colours, their effects and how sensitive children are to them.
For more information on “How Colours Affect Learning”, I found this a good read as it talks about specific colours and their impact too!